DEEMSTON – The state Department of Environmental Protection will test the water supply to Bethlehem-Center School District next week on the heels of a preliminary report from a university that shows the supply has elevated levels of cancer-causing chemicals.
West Virginia University Water Research Institute, which performed the water test in November and noted unacceptable levels of trihalomethanes at two Beth-Center schools, also will return to the district next week to perform a more in-depth analysis of the water, said Paul Ziemkiewicz, the institute’s director.
“It’s bad news,” Ziemkiewicz said Friday, adding the results from one test were not reason for the school district to panic.
Beth-Center Superintendent Linda Marcolini reached out to the institute last year after being concerned about tests that showed radiation in Ten Mile Creek. WVU performed follow-up tests on the creek and found the water to be within safe limits of radiation.
DEP spokesman John Poister said Southwestern Pennsylvania Water Authority in Jefferson, Greene County, which supplies water to Beth-Center, is in compliance with safe drinking water standards. He said the authority draws its supply from Monongahela River, upriver from Ten Mile Creek.
Poister said trihalomethanes are created when vegetable matter comes into contact with chlorine at water treatment plants. He also said it would not be uncommon for the chemicals to form in the water in November.
He said WVU found the high levels of trihalomethanes at Beth-Center’s high school and elementary school, and DEP will perform “mirror tests” there Thursday. WVU will retest the district’s water Friday.
Jack Golding, the water authority’s manager, said Southwestern will hire a chemist to refute the WVU findings at Beth-Center.
“We feel confident that our water is in compliance,” Golding said.
Marcolini said the school district will await the results from DEP and WVU before taking action.
Beth-Center School Board President Don Crile said he was not prepared to comment on the water testing.
“I am not an authority on this type of circumstance and would have no business speaking on it at this point,” Crile said.