Work continues on restoring water plant

COALDALE – Tap water customers around Coaldale could soon be free from a boil-water order, nearly two weeks after their water plant’s roof collapsed under heavy snow.

Workers were busy tearing down the building’s walls Monday as Coaldale-Six Mile Run Water Co. officials prepared to rebuild the exterior from the ground up, authority operator Ken Foster said. It could be weeks before the system is back in order, however, and until then, the water company is seeking a temporary state permit that could lift some customer restrictions and reduce the massive expense of trucking fresh water from outside the area.

“It’s going to take some help to get it done,” Foster said.

The roof at the Bedford County facility collapsed about Feb. 14, as weeks’ worth of heavy snow

accumulated across Pennsylvania.

Workers removed the mangled roof within days, Foster said, and the company’s roughly 300 individual customers were left without a functioning plant.

Since then, officials have trucked in thousands of gallons a day through Keith’s Bulk Water Transport, based in Duncansville, to keep their facility’s tank full. The near-constant hauling – roughly 60 truckloads so far – is a huge expense for the small authority, though Foster said he can’t estimate the cost so far.

Officials have asked Coaldale-area customers to cut their water consumption, and the company’s reduced filtration capability has prompted an ongoing boil-water notice.

An emergency permit, set for possible approval this week by the state Department of Environ

mental Protection, could soften the blow and cancel the boiling requirement, department spokeswoman Lisa Kasianowitz said Monday.

With a temporary permit, the water company could immediately reopen its usual water source, a local aquifer, for nondrinking uses like bathing and washing clothes, Kasianowitz said. Water would still have to be trucked in for drinking, though the boil-water notice could be lifted until the facility is repaired, she said.

“This would be what you call a limited-duration emergency permit,” Kasianowitz said, noting that the company would likely be required to return to normal operation within 30 or 45 days. “This is just a temporary, limited solution.”

First, Foster said, workers will have to reassemble the building from the ground up – a process that could take roughly a week once its insurance provider approves the work. After that, Foster said, he will clear the filters and return them to operation in a two-week process.

It’s not yet clear when the insurance provider will approve the work, nor how much money will be available, he said. With water still being delivered, the price tag will increase as the weeks go by.

On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-9th District, toured the damaged plant and offered to seek government funds for repairs. No word has come in yet of any financial help, Foster said.

The water authority – which Foster said lacks the funds to pay for the DEP’s more expensive recommended solutions – recently overcame another expensive accident: Last year, water from an underground spring washed out a pipe replacement site, adding $26,000 to the cost of a state-grant-funded project.

“I can’t say for sure, but it’s going to cost more than what I think the insurance company is going to give up,” he said of the latest setback. “It’s just one problem after another.”

Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.