The phone at the Bally Municipal Water Works has not been quiet this week as Bally residents voiced their concern over a letter mailed Saturday noting a random water sampling tested positive for coliform bacteria.
The letter from the water authority to its customers said after “a routine coliform positive sample on March 20, 2013, we did not take the required check samples and therefore cannot be sure of the quality of our drinking water during that time.”
According to Bally Water Superintendent Mike Dietrich, the sample, analyzed by Analytical Laboratory Services Inc. (ALSI) of Middletown, noted a single species/colony of coliform. The problem, however, arose because of a communication breakdown between ALSI and the borough.
The document stated the “laboratory failed to notify the borough in a timely manner, thus delaying additional testing.”
According to Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection regulations, the water authority must take three check samples within 24 hours following any routine sample which is positive for total coliform. Those samples were not taken until April 9.
Subsequent samples, and others taken near the location, were negative for any coliform or E. coli, Dietrich said.
The positive sample was taken from a household faucet, which Dietrich said the DEP requires based on the number of customers the water authority serves. Each month Bally samples two borough homes or businesses.
He emphasized it was an isolated incident and the bacteria was believed to be isolated within the home, not from the water supply.
“This incident is completely isolated and unrelated to our current well,” Dietrich said. “It’s considered an independent household issue compared to a system-wide problem.
“Because additional testing all came back negative, I believe this was a glitch or a fluke.”
Dietrich would not reveal the location of the home affected. He did say, however, that no one in that home was sickened from drinking the water.
Dietrich said the borough has never had any issues with ALSI in the eight years they have been using its services and will continue to use them for water testing, characterizing the experience as a “one-time mistake.”
Bally residents are not new to the issue of water contamination as, from 2003 until 2010, many of the borough’s households were unable to drink water from the tap because of 1,4-dioxane contamination.
The substance, classified as a probable carcinogen, was traced by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency and DEP to the former Bally Case and Cooler site. The owner of that site, American Household Inc., of Florida, provided free bottled water to residents for seven years until a new well could be built in neighboring Washington Township.
The borough’s drinking water met state and federal requirements for regulated contaminants for 2012.