Officials say normal water use may not be returned until Tuesday; 120K now affected

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WESTMORELAND CO., Pa. —

Schools were closed Friday, businesses are unable to fully operate and now officials are saying close to  120,000 people have been affected by a  water boil alert in Westmoreland County.

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Officials in Westmoreland County said during a Friday afternoon news conference that normal water usage in the area may not be returned until Tuesday.

Channel 11’s Joe Holden reports that close to 120,000 people are estimated to be affected by the boil water advisory that was issues Thursday night.

The Department of Environmental Protection says the water contained algae that shouldn't be there, and they ordered the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County to increase chlorination and flush the system.

The Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County said they have been proactive in their efforts to notify affected customers and a disturbance in one of their seven filters led to the advisory. 

The boil alert was issued Thursday night after a sample collected from the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County's George R. Sweeney Treatment Plant indicated a potential deficiency of the filtration barrier.  

“What we found were small microorganisms – algae – those types of things we normally wouldn’t see,” John Poister, of the DEP, said.

Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County GM Chris Kerr said no water contamination has been detected in the actual system. But customers are asked to boil water to be safe.

“In most extreme cases, you would have flu-like symptoms, but we have no evidence that any of that type of material escaped the plant or got out into the system,” Kerr said.

As a precaution, the MAWC issued a precautionary boil water alert for all the communities served by the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County north of Route 30. 

Affected communities include Adamsburg, Allegheny Township, Avonmore, Bell Township, Delmont, East Vandergrift, Export, Hyde Park, Irwin, Jeannette, Loyalhanna, Manor, Murrysville, North Huntingdon Township, North Irwin, Oklahoma, Penn, Penn Township, Salem Township, Vandergrift, Washington Township, West Leechburg, Apollo, Gilpin, Kiskiminetas, Leechburg, North Apollo, Parks Township, Conemaugh Township, Saltsburg, Derry, White Oak and North Greensburg. 

Residents living in the affected areas are advised not to drink water without boiling it first.  Follow these steps:

•    Bring all water to a boil.

•    Let it boil for one minute. 

•    Let it cool before using.

Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and food preparation until further notice.  

The Kiski Area, Apollo-Ridge and Leechburg Area schools districts were all closed Friday.

The Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County will immediately begin increasing the chlorine dosage and flushing its water distribution lines in the communities directed to boil water as a precautionary measure to the water supply. Officials said repairs will begin Friday, but could take up to 48 hours to complete.

Lindsey Abel was one of the many people who told Channel 11’s Joe Holden that she’s concerned.

“My husband and I are having our first child, so I’m thinking how it’s going to affect my day,” Abel said.

Red Stone, a large personal care facility in Greensburg, is also in the affected zone.

“It affects probably 2,000 people, so it’s a good bit,” Red Stone spokeswoman Shawna Miller said. “From this point forward, we’re going to be using bottled water for drinking and brushing teeth. We’re also going to use bottled for food preparation for all three of our communities.”