By Katie Collins?News Eagle Reporter
HAWLEY - Aqua America has mandated that commercial residents in the borough of Hawley and throughout areas of Pennsylvania, have to install a double check valve, in order to protect businesses’ water supplies. The device will prevent cross contamination in case there was a drop in pressure, and the water were to be siphoned back into the distribution system, explained Donna Alston, the Manager of Communications at Aqua America. If property owners choose not to install the valve, Aqua may shut their water off. Alston said Aqua America will work with property owners to try and figure something out, if necessary.
The commercial residents’ distribution systems are designed so water flows from a water main through a service line to different residents. But, instances like fires or water main breaks, can cause the water to flow from the plumbing, back into the distribution system, which would ultimately go to the local public water supply and produce contaminated water.
The valves have to be installed now, because the Department of Environmental Protection has made it the responsibly of public water utility companies to execute the program, since it is a national regulation, explained Larry Doyle, the National Meter Manager for Aqua America.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency’s website, explains that the Clean Water Act was first enacted in 1948, but the Act was reorganized and expanded in 1972. Through the Act, the website explained that the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters are established.
Aqua America, has been implementing the Act for years. But, because Aqua America’s customer base is throughout the United States, Alston said the company has been allowed to enforce the installation of the valves in a "manageable fashion."
When Jim Downey, owner of Trish's Bagels in Hawley, read the warning label on the box that his WATTS Double Check Valve, Series 007 and LF007 came in, he had questions. Aqua America had sent Downey a letter, because although they had sent him a "Backflow Protection Package," he had yet to submit a yearly test report to Aqua America. Downey was concerned when he read "CONTAINS MORE THAN 0.25% LEAD" on the warning label that was on the valve’s box. The label also said, "It is illegal to use this product in any plumbing system providing water for human consumption in CA, MD and VT, and will be illegal in LA after 2012 and everywhere in the United States after 2013." Downey made some calls to Aqua America and his questions were never answered. Puzzled about how the valve is illegal in some states and not Pennsylvania, Downey asked, "if I brought a bullet from Pennsylvania to California will it still shoot?"
Come January 2014, "the hammer hits and the gravel falls down" and people cannot use "anything that touches water that has lead in it" Doyle said. So now, he said, all water meter manufacturers are complying because anything that has lead will need to be scraped. For the people who are concerned about the lead, if they have yet to install the valve, Doyle suggested they could go back to the distributor and ask for a valve that does not contain lead.
There are some businesses in Hawley that have already installed the valves. For them, Doyle said they "don’t have to do anything because they’re grandfathered." He explained that because the valve is already installed and there is a "small portion of lead, they can keep them in." But, if the commercial resident’s owner were to repair the valve after January 2014, they would need to replace it.
As for residential properties, Doyle said new construction, has to have the appropriate valve installed. But, with old residential properties, he said the requirement for the valves has not been enacted yet because "backflow brings a problem with it." He explained that the "thermal expansion" is something that new properties are being built with, while old residents are unlikely going to have them. So he said, "We’re working to get the high-hazards done first and new construction to follow the process."