Water, water everywhere, but some unsafe to drink

Water, water everywhere, but some unsafe to drink

A pallet of bottled water at the Squirrel Hill Giant Eagle on Murray Avenue.

Photo by Toby Tabachnick
A pallet of bottled water at the Squirrel Hill Giant Eagle on Murray Avenue. Photo by Toby Tabachnick

Just two weeks ago, Danny Butler began using bottled water in his home because his sister, who works for an Israeli water company, cautioned him against using Pittsburgh tap water.

So, the Squirrel Hill resident was well prepared when the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority issued its “flush and boil” warning last week to approximately 100,000 residents in the City of Pittsburgh.

Neighborhoods in Squirrel Hill, Point Breeze and Shadyside, among others, were affected by the advisory, a result of recent disinfection and chlorine testing taken at a location near the Highland Park drinking water filtration plant. A few tests showed low levels of free chlorine in the treated drinking water. If chlorine levels are insufficient, the giardia parasite can grow and cause severe diarrhea in those who drink the water, according to PWSA officials.

Butler, at his sister’s urging — which was unrelated to the PWSA issue — had about 500 bottles of water stored at his house on Bartlett Street.

Still, the water advisory caused an inconvenience.

“You can’t brush your teeth with it, and we had to throw out all the ice,” he said.

The water warning, which was issued Tuesday night, Jan. 31 and lifted Thursday morning, Feb. 2, advised those in the affected areas to flush their water taps by running water for at least one minute, then boiling the water for one minute before drinking, making ice, washing dishes, brushing teeth or preparing food.

While the advisory lasted only about 36 hours, it was a hassle. Coffee shops along Murray Avenue and Forbes Avenue closed, upsetting the routine of regulars needing their morning jolt. Drinking fountains in local Jewish institutions were covered with garbage bags to prevent inadvertent usage. And Pittsburgh Public Schools closed on Wednesday.

But, all in all, things weren’t so bad.

The city provided clean water at 15 distribution centers at police and fire stations, and bottled water was plentiful and available for purchase at most local grocery stores, including Giant Eagle and Costco.

Programs were running as usual at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh in Squirrel Hill, according to Cathy Samuels, senior director of development and communications.

“We bought cases of bottled water for Early Childhood and after-school programs,” Samuels said, adding that because many of the public schools were closed on Wednesday, the JCC put together a “Schools Out” day for children who were affected by the school closures. More than 81 children participated in the program, she said.

Rodef Shalom Congregation sent out an email to its members, informing them that J-JEP — the Jewish education program it shares with Congregation Beth Shalom — would be up and running as usual, as would all other scheduled meetings and events at the synagogue. The congregation had bottled water available to everyone in the building.

Beth Shalom also had bottled water available and remained opened, as did Shaare Torah Congregation.

“There’s no such thing as shutting down a shul,” said Rabbi Daniel Wasserman, spiritual leader of Shaare Torah.

All in all, the Jewish community affected by the advisory seemed to handle it without too much aggravation.

“It hasn’t been terribly inconvenient for us,” said Steve Berman of Beacon Street. “We have an ample supply of water to drink from, which we purchased Tuesday night,” and an under-sink canister water filter as a back-up.

“And if we need to, we can get additional water,” Berman said. “It’s not a serious problem.”

Toby Tabachnick can be reached at tobyt@thejewishchronicle.net.

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