Smithfield municipal center water contaminated again
by Bill Cameron, originally posted on January 23, 2017
Smithfield Township Municipal Center has water worries once again. In December, samples tested posted for E. coli bacteria in the building’s water supply. Township officials are working with state and private agencies to find a permanent fix, said Supervisor Brian Barrett.
“We know what has to be done on our part,” he said. “We’re going to determine with our professionals how to do that.”
The Smithfield Township Municipal Center at 1155 Red Fox Road was built around 2008, said Barrett. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection regularly tests the building’s water supply.
“It’s a good protection for the public,” said Barret. “This is a public building.” In addition to township offices, the municipal center also houses the magisterial district court of Judge Brian Germano.
“On Dec. 16, the water from well two tested positive for E. coli bacteria,” said DEP Spokesperson Colleen Connolly. The department had then issued a field order requiring Smithfield post public notice of a boil water advisory. It also set a 120-day timeline to take corrective actions, including sampling and testing.
Township staff has posted advisory notices at each water supply location in the building, said Barrett. They’ve also placed hand sanitizer dispensers in bathrooms. Drinking fountains have been temporarily disconnected to eliminate the risk of use.
“We do serve bottled water,” said Barret. “Bottles of water are free to the public: people in our township and also those who see our district judge.”
Inspectors have monitored the municipal building with particular scrutiny after a contamination event in June. Samples then tested positive for E. coli also, indicating the presence of a fecal-waste pollutant. A recent DEP inspection report calls the prior incident an “acute violation.” The bacteria’s presence was attributed to an intrusion in the lower casing of the well.
The township replaced the well, and initial test results showed promise. After weeks of use, the water went bad again. Barrett said the problem has since recurred intermittently, going weeks without instance and with little to indicate the cause.
Contamination appears to be isolated. The neighboring Waterfront Park— another Smithfield-owned property — on Twin Falls Road has had no reported contamination issues. DEP regularly checks the water at the Parkhouse, open seasonally.
“It’s an older well, and we know it’s working properly,” said Barrett. “It’s never tested bad.”
Parts of Smithfield Township are served by municipal sewer; however, the municipal building has on-site sewer, also called a septic system. The cost of connecting the building to the service would be prohibitive, said Barret.
Smithfield Township has hired two consultants: Effort-based Prosser Laboratories and building consultants Strunk-Albert Engineering from East Stroudsburg. Under DEP guidance, the organizations will develop a system Smithfield can implement before 120 days are up.
“This needs professionals using today’s best standards,” said Barrett. “With two professionals well-regarded by DEP, a final solution should be attainable well within that timeframe.”