With help from State College Borough Water Authority employees, Mountaintop Regional Water Authority is making progress in detecting and repairing leaks in its system.
About 50 percent of the authority’s water is lost through leaks or it’s unaccounted for.
SCBWA sent two employees to the mountain top for four days this week at no charge to the Mountaintop water authority, said Jim Yost, Mountaintop authority board chairman.
“They’ve been outstanding,” he said.
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The SCBWA employees are assisting Mountaintop’s maintenance operator Chris Barton, along with other volunteers.
Yost said they found multiple leaks, including an unoccupied house with a basement full of water, which they suspect is one of the “big” ones.
“The funny part is we had more technologically advanced equipment, electronic listening devices,” Yost said. “They use a form of stethoscope with a magnet that they put on, and that’s been more effective than our expensive electronic equipment.”
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, said he thinks Mountaintop qualifies for a state Department of Environmental Protection program that would help offset the cost to hire outside experts to do leak detection.
“Step one is to get those leaks fixed because nobody’s gonna wanna put grant money or any kind of money into a new well where the potential is that the water is just gonna run out on the ground through leaks,” state Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Lock Haven, said.
Part of the problem with Mountaintop’s water system is that the wells it uses are running low on water, especially at this time of year, so a new water source might need to be looked at as an option.
“I’m confident we can get them resources here initially to go through the leak detection and then fix the leaks and then depending on what they want to do next, we can work together,” Corman said. “I’m sure Mike and I will do our best to help them in that process. I’m confident we can. Just we haven’t really determined what that next step is.”
Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority money is a source Hanna said they’d like to recommend, but they’ll have to help Mountaintop qualify.
Mountaintop has been able to keep water rates low in the region compared to the rest of the state, but that makes it difficult for the authority to qualify for PennVEST dollars, which is a major source of infrastructure funding, Hanna said.
Mountaintop water authority serves residents in Snow Shoe borough, Snow Shoe Township and Burnside Township. In addition to the leaks, it’s had other problems such as undrinkable water that needs to be boiled before use and low water levels.
But there’s been a bit of relief. Nestle Waters donated 1,600 cases to the community, and Clarence Moose Lodge ordered 504 cases that can be picked up Monday.
The water level in the Snow Shoe tank is at 20 feet, up from two and a half feet last week, Yost said. He’s not sure what the level is in the German settlement tank because the gauge is frozen, but said it should be comparable.
And, he said the water authority is hopeful to lift the boil water notice — that’s been on the water for more than a week — on Monday. Water needs to be tested two days in a row with four tests around the system and have them all come back positive.