Contamination warnings

Contamination warnings

Postby admin » Mon Apr 03, 2006 5:15 am

First Posted: 17 Mar 2006 02:53 am

Contamination warnings

Patriot News - March 16, 2006

The state Public Utility Commis sion has reaffirmed what West Shore residents knew in December, that the local water company failed to properly notify them of a fluoride contamination.

Operator error caused a large amount of fluoride to flow into the system that serves 34,000 homes and businesses on Dec. 10, but Pennsylvania American Water Co. didn't detect or shut off the flow for several hours. It took another two or three hours for the company to ask television stations to broadcast a warning not to consume water, though it never was clear what harm might befall those who did. Quite likely many residents didn't hear the "do not consume" warning until after any danger had passed.

Not only was the warning inadequate, the PUC said this week, but the company didn't notify the commission in timely fashion. While reporting that Pennsylvania American had taken "swift and positive steps" to avoid future spills and to improve notification procedures, the PUC directed other water companies across the state to implement better procedures for notifying consumers of emergencies and to update emergency procedures.

The Department of Environmental Protection earlier directed water companies to improve public notification procedures, to include e-mails, text messages, beepers or even telephone calls to customers. Companies are to work with emergency management agencies, police and fire companies, which will make door-to-door visits and bullhorn announcements of the emergency.

Possibly because Pennsylvania American acted swiftly to improve its procedures, the PUC didn't levy a financial penalty. But its report should serve as fair warning to every water company across the state to go out of their way to notify consumers of future contaminations. Future failures should result in fines.

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