Submitted by: Frank J. Pokrywka, PhD, CIH
Clean, fresh drinking water emanating from our tap is often taken for granted. This has become evident with concerns for “safe” drinking water in Houston, Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean in the wake of recent hurricanes and earthquakes. On October 26th, we explored what needs to be done to assure the water we drink, cool with, bathe in and use in our homes, schools and workplaces is free of contaminants that can make us sick.
The first speaker for this meeting was Janet Stout, Ph.D., President and Director of Special Pathogens Laboratory in Pittsburgh who spoke on the IH issues of Legionella bacteria and other waterborne hazards affecting homes, hospitals, commercial and industrial buildings. Sources of exposure discussed included water fountains, cooling towers, ice machined, decorative fountains, showers, hot tubs, swamp coolers and other water aerosol sources having the proper temperature and mineral composition. Janet’s talk focused on the prevalence of pathogenic organisms in our water, possible treatment methods, Legionella legislation (ANSI / ASHRAE Standard 188-2015) and various monitoring methods.
Our second speaker, Keith Rickabaugh, a Certified Industrial Hygienist from the RJ Lee Group in Monroeville and our local section Director, discussed the hazards of lead and other metal contaminants in drinking water and the possible health implications to our most susceptible populations. His talk focused on the sources of lead in water including lead service lines, solder joints, electrolysis interactions between copper, steel and lead lines, brass fixtures, and galvanizing coatings in light of current state and federal regulations. Keith also discussed other sources of lead exposure in our homes and workplaces and the risk to children from lead in drinking water as a part of the total potential exposures from lead paint and soil contamination. Proper sampling techniques were covered as were the current laboratory analytical methods.
Our third speaker was Dr. Stanley States, a full-time Instructor on drinking water and wastewater with the Texas A&M University and the retired Director of Water Quality from the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority. With the aid of various charts and photos, Stanley discussed the process flow of Pittsburgh’s water from the Allegheny River to our homes. He presented a thorough description of how drinking water is first filtered and chemically treated at the Aspinwal plant to remove debris, dirt, heavy metals and microorganisms, and how water is treated a second time as it flows from our reservoirs to our homes and businesses. Stanley also discussed the recent media reports of various chemical or physical treatments of drinking water in Flint, Pittsburgh and NYC; covering why the methods were or were not successful. Also discussed were some plumbing issues that may cause lead contaminated water such as transitions from public lines to private lines, protective coatings, dead legs, storage tanks, and pipe materials (copper vs PEX vs galvanized, brass, etc.)
Thanks to the following members who attended the event: