News Feature | September 12, 2017

Pittsburgh Issues Boil Water Advisory Following Bird Poop Contamination

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga


Pittsburgh has had its fair share of water quality concerns these days, but the latest may be one of the worst yet.

The city has struggled with lead contamination of drinking water this year, and the issue was so pervasive that water filters were distributed to consumers who were receiving partial lead service line replacements and to households with expectant mothers and young children.

Now, to pile on Pittsburgh’s water quality problems, bird droppings have forced a boil water advisory in the area.

“Tens of thousands of residents in Pittbsurgh’s northern neighborhoods are under a ‘boil water’ advisory … after concerns were raised about possible contamination of the Lanpher Reservoir in Shaler,” per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “The potential problem, officials said, has been traced to bird and animal droppings on 20-year-old reservoir covers that are torn and degrading.”

The issue was deemed so dangerous that local schools were provided with bottled water and water stations were set up for those who could not boil water. The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority’s interim director Bob Weimar stressed that the contamination occurred in the distribution system, as opposed to stemming from a treatment plant or source water.

“Pittsburgh’s water supply is very, very good and after-treatment is excellent,” Weimar said, per the Post-Gazette. “So we determined the problem had to be out somewhere in the distribution system.”

To solve the problem, authorities isolated the 133 million-gallon reservoir from the distribution system while it did repairs on the cover.

“The authority will flush waterlines throughout the impacted area to eliminate potentially compromised water for the next 24 to 48 hours,” TribLive reported at the time of the crisis late last month. “Weimar said the reservoir has been turned off so there is no chance for contamination. It will not be turned back on unless the covers are repaired.”

Image credit: "Volee de bernaches --- Flock of Canada goose --- Barnacla canadiense," Jacques Sauve © 2013, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: