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HARRISBURG, Pa. - The public drinking water supplier serving the Wilson Hills development in Hawley, Pike Co., Pa. was sued on February 17 for chronic violations of state and federal drinking water standards. The approximately 150 Wilson Hill residents have had to boil their water since April, 1996 to make it safe to drink.
The Department of Justice filed the lawsuit in federal court on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency. The complaint was filed against: Tafton Water Co.; Richard M. S. Freeman, Tafton’s former vice president; and two related companies, Public Water Service Co. and Winton Consolidated Companies Inc.
The Tafton Water Company supplies approximately 60 homes and businesses with drinking water from a well. EPA issued orders in 1996 and 1997 to Tafton, the Public Service Water Co., and Mr. Freeman to comply with drinking water laws. The defendants did not comply. In the summer of 1997, the defendants stopped operating the Tafton water system, forcing its customers to operate the system on their own, or face having no water at all.
The complaint alleges violations including: not maintaining adequate chlorination; not monitoring drinking water for total coliform bacteria, lead, copper, nitrate, and inorganic, volatile organic, and synthetic organic chemicals. The system has also failed to report monitoring results, provide public notices, and employ a certified operator.
In addition to civil penalties of up to $27,500 per day, the government seeks an injunction requiring the defendants to properly chlorinate the drinking water in the Tafton system and comply with Safe Drinking Water Act and Pennsylvania water quality monitoring requirements.
According to EPA, inadequate chlorination of Tafton’s drinking water creates a substantial risk of contamination from harmful waterborne pathogens, which can cause serious diseases such as hepatitis or infection by E. coli bacteria. Routine monitoring of drinking water is the only way to detect waterborne pathogens and harmful chemicals prior to consumption.
The defendants have a right to contest the alleged violations and proposed penalties and injunctive relief.