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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Water cooler conversation had a different meaning throughout parts of Allegheny and Washington counties on Tuesday, as customers of Pennsylvania American Water were filling their containers at the water buffalo. Some people were there before daylight.

“We figure, let’s get there before everybody else,” said Rita Belback, who lives in Bethel Park, “…and how precious that water is, that’s the whole thing.”

Bethel Park is one of multiple locations where water buffaloes were placed, to provide water for the customers affected by the Boil Water Advisory. Several restaurants in the area are closed, too.

The water buffaloes have been set up at:

  • Bethel Park Community Center: 5151 Park Ave, Bethel Park, PA 15102
  • Canonsburg Dam parking lot: McDowell Road, McMurray Pa 5317
  • Canonsburg United Presbyterian Church: 112 W Pike St, Canonsburg, PA 15317
  • Carroll Township Volunteer Fire Department: 988 PA-837, Monongahela, PA 15063
  • Cecil Township: VFW 3324 Route 50, Millers Run Road, Cecil Twp, PA 15321
  • Clairton Volunteer Fire Department: 551 Ravensburg Blvd, Clairton, PA 15025
  • Dravosburg: 226 Maple Ave, Dravosburg, PA 15034
  • Elrama Volunteer Fire Company: 17 Elrama Ave, Elrama, PA 15038
  • Hanover Township: 11 Municipal Drive, Burgettstown, PA 15021
  • Jefferson Hills Borough Police Department: 925 Old Clairton Rd, Jefferson Hills, PA 15025
  • Monongahela Volunteer Fire Department: 451 W Main St, Monongahela, PA 15063
  • Morris Township: 77 Park Drive, Prosperity, PA 15329
  • North Franklin Twp. Fire Dept., 565 Sylvan Drive, N. Franklin Twp., Washington, PA 15301
  • North Strabane Fire Department: 2550 Washington Rd, Canonsburg, PA 15317
  • Smith Township: Municipal Bldg., 1848 Smith Twp. State Road, Slovan, PA 15078
  • South Fayette Township Library: 515 Millers Run Rd, Morgan, PA 15064
  • South Park Township Library: 2575 Brownsville Rd, South Park Township, PA 15129
  • Upper St Clair Community & Recreation Center: 1551 Mayview Rd, Upper St Clair, PA 15241
  • Washington Mall: 301 Oak Spring Road, Washington, PA 15301
  • Washington Park: 900 East Wheeling Street, Washington, PA 15301

Residents will need to bring their own containers to fill up.

The advisory remains in effect for about 100,000 customers in Allegheny and Washington counties.

It was around 2 a.m. Monday when it was discovered that one of the eight primary filters at the Penn American Water plant on the Mon River in Elrama was not working properly. The shutdown of the plant started immediately and the problem was isolated from the system by 5 a.m. Just under 13 hours later, the warning to boil water went public.

Sally Fellavaum, who lives near the plant, was not happy about the delay, “They didn’t not give us enough notice. Nobody knew about this until, like, in the evening. We’d already been drinking the water, and making coffee, making tea. I mean, come on.”

The Allegheny County Health Department’s Deputy Director Jim Kelly says the boil water warning was needed because questionable water “could have entered the distribution system.” The issue is that failure of the filter created cloudy water called turbidity.

Kelly says, “Once you have that, there is a failure of some type of filtration, so that could allow some type of organism to enter into the distribution system.”

So the boil water advisory was issued as a precaution. But if you did consume some of the water, ADHD Medical Epidemiologist Dr. Kristen Mertz says, “It’s unlikely that anything will happen. But the symptoms to watch for are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps things like that.”

Those symptoms could show up for up to three weeks.

But, so far, no contamination has been found downstream in the system. Pumps have drained the plant, the filter has been repaired, and is operating normally again.

Still, the boil water advisory will remain in effect until tests on the system’s water show no contamination in two tests at least 24 hours apart. That means the boil advisory will not be lifted until at least dinnertime on Wednesday.

pa american water company boil water advisory Residents Flock To Water Buffaloes As Boil Water Advisory Remains In Effect

(Photo Credit: Pennsylvania American Water Company)

In the meantime, residents continue to make trips to the water buffalo. Al Taffel stopped by Tuesday to get water for his four restaurants.

“Today, we have to figure out how to wash dishes and things like that,” Taffel told KDKA’s Lisa Washington, “but the important thing is keep hands washed and gloving up when handling the food.”

The advisory also continues to impact school districts. The South Allegheny School District is once again cancelling classes. The Bethel Park School District is also shutting down on Wednesday, too.

However, South Fayette Schools will be open on Wednesday, Nov. 8.

KDKA’s Brenda Waters Reports —

Some were foregoing the long lines at the water buffaloes and heading straight to the grocery stores for bottled water.

“Thank God for Giant Eagle. In all my years, I never thought I would ever have a water problem, unless I didn’t pay the water bill,” said Florence Klobucar, of Canonsburg.

“I boiled all night,” said Suzi Fay, of Peters Township. “Just have two large pitchers in the refrigerator, but it’s a lot more convenient just to go get them.”

Many stores were selling out, customers finding empty shelves where cases upon cases of water are stocked.

“You have to do what you gotta do, and this is what we got to do,” said Fred Sorce, of Southpointe.

Back over in Jefferson Hills, Jim Ross needed water for his pets. So he made a trip to his nearest water buffalo location.

“This is for my dogs,” Ross said. “I have a Rottweiler and a German Shepard.”

KDKA’s Lisa Washington Reports —

Speaking of four-legged friends, a Washington County animal shelter is also impacted by the advisory. The Washington Area Humane Society is asking for donations of bottled water to keep their animals hydrated through the advisory. If you would like to donate, they have bins set up outside their facility for drop-offs.

They are located at 1527 Route 136, Eighty-Four, Pennsylvania, 15330. You can also call them at 724-222-7387.

Until the advisory has been lifted, Penn American Water customers should continue to boil their water for one minute and let it cool, before using it.

“I put two pots of water on the stove right away… a couple big pots and I put them in the refrigerator to cool them down,” Belback said.

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