| Pennsylvania volunteers help aging community water system adapt to current needs
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Pennsylvania volunteers help aging community water system adapt to current needs

With safe drinking water at risk for 350 residents in a South-Central Pennsylvania community, volunteers from the American Water Works Association’s (AWWA) Pennsylvania Section recently took part in a Community Engineering Corps (CECorps) project to determine a long-term solution.

CECorp volunteer at treatment plant siteThe customer-owned, small water system in Bedford County delivers an average of 25,000 gallons per day of treated water from five mountain springs. It is operated by volunteers and twice monthly visits from a certified operator. Its treatment plant was built in 1998 on donated private property. (Pictured right, project manager Andrew Crew approaches treatment plant)

“The operators pride themselves on maintaining good water quality, but community volunteers are struggling to maintain compliance with the many and varied regulatory requirements of an aging community water system,” said Gene Koontz, PE, of the PA-AWWA Section and principal engineer on the project. 

Treatment plant's earth filtration systemAfter the system received notices of violations and citations from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, it reached out for assistance. CECorps developed a scope of services and recruited a project group of volunteers from the PA-AWWA Section, the Rural Community Assistance Partnership and the University of Pennsylvania. (Pictured left, the plant’s aging diatomaceous earth filtration system)

The project team was tasked with addressing the state violations and citations, maintaining the system’s ability to fully comply with drinking water regulations, ensuring that a sufficient supply of high-quality water continues to be available to customers, and determining a long-term solution to organizational and management needs. 

“The team conducted a feasibility study that evaluated several future water supply options,” said Koontz. “These included installing a new treatment system for the existing spring sources, drilling new groundwater wells and interconnecting with a nearby water system.”

Chemical feed systemThe volunteers also examined various organization and management options, including maintain local ownership and outsourcing operations, merging with another municipal system, or selling to a municipal authority or private company. (Pictured right, one of the plant's two chemical feed systems) 

Earlier this month, the project team shared its draft feasibility study with the water company board. In June, board members and customers will provide feedback toward finalizing the recommended plan and report by the August deadline set by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Along with Koontz, who recently retired as a senior vice president at Gannett Fleming, PA-AWWA members on the project include Andrew Crew with Gannett Fleming, retired engineers Bill Gralski and Jerry Haimowitz, and Heath Edelman, PE, with Thaddeus Stevens College. Team members from the University of Pennsylvania are Professor Tony Sauder and students Ryan Khan, Denise Pereira and Ahmad Kamal Mubarak.