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Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Filter Starts in Zelienople

Release Date: 8/2/2001
Contact Information: David Sternberg, (215) 814-5548

David Sternberg, (215) 814-5548

PHILADELPHIA – Due to low rainfall, residents of Zelienople Borough in Butler County, Pa. tomorrow will start drinking water from Connoquenessing Creek for the first time since fall, 1999.

The creek is Zelienople’s backup water supply, used only during periods of low water flow in Scholar’s Run, the primary source. Connoquenessing Creek contains nitrates from AK Steel’s stainless mill 21 miles upstream.

Zelienople residents and their neighbors will get fresh, clean water from their taps, thanks to the state-of-the-art reverse osmosis filter required by a U. S. Environmental Protection Agency consent agreement with AK Steel. The reverse osmosis system will filter out 99 percent of the impurities at Zelienople’s water intake.

Nitrates are a byproduct of the pickling process used to scour stainless steel. In drinking water, they can impair metabolism and deprive the brain of oxygen. In infants, the chemical can cause “blue baby syndrome,” which can be fatal. For several years, Zelienople Borough has provided bottled water to families with pregnant or nursing mothers and young infants.

EPA’s Deputy Regional Administrator Thomas Voltaggio commented: “This is the moment that EPA anticipated last year when we issued a safe drinking water order to protect Zelienople residents from polluted water. Because of our agreement with AK Steel, more than 1400 households will get safe drinking water from their taps during this dry spell.”

Under that consent agreement, AK Steel installed the reverse osmosis system in Zelienople, and is converting its pickling lines to a hydrogen peroxide process that dissolves naturally and eliminates nitrate pollution.

AK Steel must operate the reverse osmosis system whenever Zelienople draws water from the Connoquennessing. The system can filter 600 gallons of raw water per minute. If the reverse osmosis system is not functioning, AK Steel must provide bottled water to all Zelienople water customers, under the consent agreeement.

The normal water supply is Scholar’s Run, which is used to fill the borough’s reservoir. But dry conditions have dropped the town reservoir more than five feet, close to the level where Zelienople must institute conservation measures under its permit from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources. Those measures include drawing water from Connoquenessing Creek, the secondary source of supply.