Tap Water Given First OK To Drink Since 2003

Posted: 1:45 PM EDT Aug 24, 2011   Updated: 6:34 AM EDT Sep 22, 2010
BALLY, Pa. -

For the first time in seven years, residents of Bally, Berks County no longer need to drink bottled water.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has sent out a letter to residents informing them that construction of a new water supply well in neighboring Washington Township is now complete.

Officials said it replaces one contaminated by a chemical that leaked into the groundwater from storage containers on the site of the old Bally Engineered Structures company.

The EPA said the new well, with the old one disconnected and the borough water system now flushed, makes the tap water safe to drink and cook with.

Link: EPA Letter To Bally Residents Link: Bally Groundwater Contamination Superfund Site

"The new well was brought on-line as Bally's public water supply on August 21, 2010," said Mitch Cron, remedial project manager for the EPA, in his letter to residents and business owners. "Bottled drinking water is no longer needed and the tap water can be used as drinking water at this time."

Since 2003, Bally residents have been relying on bottled water delivered to their homes and paid for by the potentially responsible party, Sunbeam Products.

"They agreed to provide drinking water to the residents until the issue was resolved and they were also responsible for providing us with a new well," said Andrea Delo, borough secretary.

Tests done by the EPA in 2003 showed that the borough's water system contained low levels of the cancer-causing toxin 1,4-dioxane, a solvent used in degreasing and in the formulation of inks, coatings, and adhesives.

"We were drinking the bad water for years and didn't even know it because they weren't testing for a particular product that they found," said Michael Mutter of Bally.

In 2003, Cron told residents that, based upon the concentrations of 1,4 dioxane found in the municipal water system, the cancer risk was one in 100,000, based on 30 years of exposure.

But the EPA said it wanted to see that level drop to one in a million.

"The water system was sampled and analyzed for 1,4-dioxane at four locations in Bally on September 3, as required by the EPA," said Cron of the new well being online. "The water sample results confirm that 1,4-dioxane is no longer present at levels of concern."

Cron said the new well is in an uncontaminated location and will continue to be monitored.

But not everyone is ready to drink from the tap.

"All growing up we were told Bally has one of the best public water in the states and then we find out after drinking as kids it might not be as we were told to believe," said John Eddinger of Bally. "I will still buy bottled water."

"Now, that it's being inspected more closely, I'm pretty confident that they're not going to let anything else like that happen again without notifying us again," said Mutter.

The EPA said flushing of residential, business, and school plumbing systems is not necessary, but provided the following instructions for those who wish to perform the process anyway:

"Starting at the faucet as close to your water meter as possible, open the tap and allow the water to run one to two minutes or until you feel a temperature change. Proceed to the next faucet and repeat the procedure. Continue working your way through your home (or business, school, etc.) until all taps have been flushed. Again, it is not required that you flush your interior piping as it will flush through regular use. However, if you have any taps that are not used regularly, we recommend that you make an effort to ensure those are flushed."

Cron said delivery of bottled water will end on September 28 and that arrangements will be made to recover bottled water dispensers.