Not a drop to drink ... at least for now
Just before 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 18, Suez officials issued a warning for Middletown and Royalton residents, advising people to use bottled or boiled water until further notice. The notification was made because operational plant conditions or deficiencies were identified at a Middletown well.
Suez is the private company that runs Middletown’s water and sewer services. Is officials said the deficiencies include “loss of disinfection of water entering the distribution system.”
What happened? According to Suez spokeswoman Madeline Power, the chlorine feed in the well — Well #2 — malfunctioned and raw (untreated) water was being pumped through. She said they couldn’t prove how long the chlorine feed — which brings water into drinking water standards — was off. At that point a “boil water advisory” was issued for Middletown and Royalton boroughs.
Power said that the The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection lifts the advisory. Thursday morning Suez obtained water samples, which are currently being tested. Analysis usually takes 24 hours and would indicate whether the water is safe to drink.
“It could be lifted soon or it could be lifted in some time,” Power said.
Local restaurants dealing with the problem
Carol Kupp, who runs Kuppy’s Diner in downtown with her husband, Greg, were alerted about the boil advisory via Social Media posts on Wednesday night, and that night, they brainstormed what they could do.
Sure enough, there was a boil advisory notice on the diner door when they came in Thursday morning. Bright and early at 5 a.m., Kupp went to Giant to buy every gallon of water left in the store. She returned to Kuppy’s — armed with gallons of water, cases of bottled water and paper plates.
She said that over its 85 years, Kuppy’s Diner has withstood hurricanes, flooding, electric outages.
“This is just one more bump on the radar,” Kupp said.
Nick Taddeo, general manager of the Brownstone Cafe, Union and Emaus sts., said they decided to close an hour early Wednesday night after hearing about the warning. Taddeo said that in the interest of public safety, they decided to open at 11 a.m. Thursday instead of their usual 6 a.m.
When one of the customers told Kupp that Brownstone was not opening until 11 a.m., she said she called Suez whether they had issued something new that morning.
“The person I spoke with said that they’re not looking at anything being resolved until possibly tomorrow morning,” Kupp said.
Notices from Suez
Suez officials issued an advisory that residents and business owners not drink the water without boiling it first or to instead use bottled water. The water, they said, was also not to be used for making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, food preparation or pet’s water.
Power said Well #2 does not serve a specific portion of the community, and the well feeds into the borough’s water supply.
In a frequently asked question publication, Suez wrote, “Public notification will be given when the boil water notice is lifted. Your water utility and your local health department office can also give you details on how long your boil water notice might last and will advise you when it is safe to return to normal water use.”
In its original press release, Suez officials said that there was an “increased chance that the water may contain disease-causing organisms.”
When Kuppy’s opened Thursday morning, they used the recently purchased gallons of water to make coffee. They also refrained from serving water unless a customer specifically requested it.
Kuppy’s decided to serve breakfast food from the grill — which doesn’t use water in the food prep — all day.
“We’re just improvising,” Kupp said.
Taddeo recalled something similar happening years ago.
“We knew what to do,” he said.
At Brownstone, they called the health inspector to double check what they were supposed to do. The inspector, Taddeo said, told them that the washing dish washer was still safe to use, in part because it uses chlorine.
Brownstone staff sanitized the ice machines, and bought ice, water and soda from the store. The boil advisory, Taddeo said, cost the restaurant morning sales and a couple hundred dollars in purchases.
“For the safety of everyone, you suck it up and do what you’re supposed to do,” Taddeo said.
At the Karns in Middletown shift manager Erin Kisla said that they sold a lot of bottled water both Wednesday night and Thursday morning, though she noted that it was hard to tell how much was related to the notice because the store typically sells a lot of bottled water during hot weather.
What to do
If you decide to use boiled water, Suez officials recommend letting the water boil “vigorously” for at least one minute.
“If you drank the water before hearing of the advisory, your risk of becoming ill is low,” Suez said in a press release.
They advised seeking medical attention if one is experiencing diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, with or without fever, and tell the health care professional that tap water was consumed during the advisory.
“These symptoms are not unique to exposure to potential contaminants/organisms in the water, and a doctor’s involvement is key to identifying the cause of your illness,” the release stated.
Also in the release, Suez said that at this time, they were not supplying alternate sources of water, though if it persists for an extended period of time, consumers would be notified of alternate sources.
Once the notice is lifted, residents may be given instructions, such as to flush their pipes, before using tap water. In regards to flushing guidelines, Suez said that all cold water faucets should run for one minute, three batches of ice in automatic icemakers should be made and discarded, water softeners should run through a regeneration cycle, water fountains should run for one minute and water coolers should be run with direct water connections for five minutes.
The officials reported that Well #2 is out of service and will be disconnected until repairs are complete. Power said that water conservation measures have not been needed with Well #2 being offline.
Suez noted residents who are interested in receiving future drinking water notifications from Suez Middletown can do so by registering on the company's web site here.
Also, articles related to this story have been taken out of the Press & Journal web site's paywall and can be freely accessed.