Bald Eagle

Poor water quality plagues Mountaintop residents

Snow Shoe resident talks about water that ‘looks like milk’

Snow Shoe resident Tina Gasper talks about the boil water notice and water shortage on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018.
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Snow Shoe resident Tina Gasper talks about the boil water notice and water shortage on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018.

The water coming from the faucet in Natalie Smolko and Tina Gasper’s home looks like milk.

“Taking a bath shouldn’t make you hungry for cereal,” Smolko said.

There’s air in the line, and it’s cloudy. Sometimes it’s brown and dirty with sediment. When they fill up the sink or boil it, it leaves a ring of residue. It’s been like this for months, they say.

Last week, a boil water notice was issued.

“When you turn it on there’s lots of air in the lines. Like the first blast ... chunks of dirt come out,” said Smolko, who lives in Snow Shoe Township.

They’ll wait until the day the water looks best to do laundry or have to drive more than 15 miles to the laundromat in Bellefonte. To cook, they boil the water once and then have to boil it a second time.

“It’s been bad for about three, four years, and it’s just now getting to the really bad point where it’s becoming a problem,” said Carrie Walker, who lives up the street from Smolko and Gasper.

Most residents in the Mountaintop region are drinking bottled water. Some go to the “Devil’s Elbow,” a spring, to get water. At Hall’s Market, daytime grocery manager Tara Davidson said she can’t keep bottled water on the shelves.

On Sunday night, residents served by the Mountaintop Regional Water Authority received an alert saying that the water levels in the authority’s two tanks were low and asking customers to conserve water.

“Then they said we were gonna lose water, so we filled up two bins in our basement just to be able to flush our toilet because who wants to be out of water?” Smolko said.

The authority provides water to about 1,300 homes and businesses in Snow Shoe borough, Snow Shoe Township and Burnside Township.

On Monday, the water levels in the German settlement tank and Snow Shoe tank were at 13 feet and just more than 5 feet, respectively. (German settlement holds about  1/2 million gallons, and the one near Snow Shoe holds about 200,000.)

The authority’s secretary, Jami Rauch, said Tuesday that the tanks went up “a little bit” overnight.

More than 50 residents attended a water authority meeting Monday night about the issues and low water levels.

The state Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that the restroom and vending machine facilities at the mile marker 144 rest areas on I-80, near Snow Shoe, are temporarily closed to help conserve water.

Sarah Rafacz: 814-231-4619, @SarahRafacz

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