By Donald R. Serfass, dserfasstnonline.com
The Times News, © 2006

July 25, 2006


DONALD R. SERFASS/TIMES NEWS The quality of drinking water from the Still Creek Reservoir doesn’t indicate a level of health concern, according to a federal agency. The reservoir serves 8,000 people in the Tamaqua area. This photo of the spillway was taken during a tour of the water filtration plant several years ago.

Study results just released by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) failed to show any major problems in water from the Still Creek Reservoir or in selected wells along Ben Titus Road.

That’s the report issued to the Army for a Clean Environment (ACE).

The Still Creek Reservoir provides raw drinking water to some 8,000 people, according to the study. The water then passes through a filtration plant in Rush Township.

The 1,100-member ACE environmental organization had requested an ATSDR review of Still Creek Reservoir in March of this year. State Rep. David Argall also asked the agency to look into the matter.

In a report dated July 20, the ATSDR said studies turned up some minor concerns such as elevated levels of lead in the reservoir and elevated levels of manganese in one of the wells.

“All other chemicals in the untreated surface water sample were detected at levels below environmental or health concerns,” states the report, signed by Ana Pomales and Lora Werner of the ATSDR.

However, the agency also indicated that it intends to provide its findings to the PA Department of Health and the ATSDR Division of Health Studies to further evaluate the incidence of polycythemia vera, a rare blood disorder cropping up at an alarming rate among residents of the vicinity.

As for the well sampling, the report indicates that the testing was performed two years ago.

“In 2004, PA DEP conducted sampling of five residential wells along Ben Titus Road. Ben Titus Road borders the northern side of the reservoir. The water of the residential wells was tested for radioactivity, herbicides, pesticides, volatile organic chemicals and metals. All results were below screening values, except for one sample which detected manganese at a concentration of 227 parts per billion. EPA establishes a secondary standard for manganese in public drinking water systems at a concentration of 50 ppb.”

In addition, the agency will provide its results to local health professionals in a health education outreach effort scheduled for this area in late summer/fall 2006.

The report indicates that the quality of tap water in the Tamaqua area has not triggered an alarm.

“No levels of health concern have been detected in finished, treated water being consumed by community members,” states the report.

Dr. Dante Picciano, a founder of the ACE movement, said the matter will continue to receive scrutiny.

“I think the report shows that ATSDR has some concerns, especially in regard to the polycythemia vera.”

The ACE group is conducting additional testing in the area and will share its results with the ATSDR if anything significant is uncovered through ACE’s independent investigation.

The report describes the reservoir as being privately owned by the Tamaqua Area Water Authority and that public access is prohibited. It also states that fishing, boating and swimming are not allowed at the reservoir and that the water authority owns most of the land surrounding the body of water, except for the north side which is bordered by Ben Titus Road.