Jul 28, 2022 : A Matter of Taste: Understanding tastes and odors in drinking water
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A Matter of Taste: Understanding tastes and odors in drinking water
Jul 28, 2022
July 28, 2022
Water quality has remained the highest priority at Aqua since its founding in 1886. Ensuring high quality drinking water is achieved by protecting our water sources—rivers, streams, wells, and reservoirs—and through state-of-the-art water monitoring and treatment.
On rare occasions, however, you might notice uncommon tastes and odors in your drinking water. Although tastes and odors sometimes occur, the water meets the Primary Drinking Water Standards of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Water suppliers, universities and research institutions have studied the cause and treatment of tastes and odors in water for many years. This information will help you understand how tastes and odors develop in water, as well as the testing and treatment methods Aqua uses to handle these problems when they occur.
Common causes of tastes and odors in water?
Water suppliers are required to keep a small amount of chlorine in the water supply for disinfection purposes. The amount of chlorine is typically a few parts per million or less, which is equivalent to a few pennies in $10,000. The chlorine might be pure, mixed with nothing and referred to as “free chlorine,” or it might be a combined form of chlorine referred to as chloramine. Chloramine is a longer-lasting disinfectant than free chlorine and often people are less sensitive to its taste and odor.
Some types of algae produce non-toxic chemicals that people can taste and smell in drinking water at levels as low as a few parts per trillion, which is equivalent to a few pennies in $10 billion. Although traces of these chemicals can be found in drinking water, you can be assured that the water meets all standards of the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act. During hot, dry weather, chemical compounds call Geosmin and Methylisoborneol (MIB) are produced by some algae. These can import earthy, musty odors to water.
Tastes and odors are generally less common in groundwater sources. However, in some regions sulfurous odors are common in well water. Stale odors and metallic tastes are also sometimes reported in groundwater. These odors are usually due to a combination of local mineral deposits and natural underground chemical and biological processes.
How do people perceive tastes and odors?
Our tongues sense bitter, sweet, sour and salty tastes. Olfactory nerves located above the roof of the mouth are the special nerves that sense odors. Together, tastes and odors are perceived as flavors. However, people sense flavors differently. For example, some people may be sensitive to flavors that others can’t distinguish at all. That is why people living within a household or neighborhood might notice water tastes or smells that others do not.
How is water tested for taste and odor?
Aqua continuously monitors and samples the water in its reservoirs, streams, treatment plants, groundwater wells, businesses, and homes. Approximately 30,000 samples are analyzed for bacteria, chlorine, pH, algae and many other chemical constituents each year in the company’s state-of-the-art laboratory. Water treatment operators test the water at its treatment plants for tastes and odors. These operators are often the first to identify a taste or odor and can usually respond with treatment changes before the water gets through the treatment process.
Aqua’s research laboratory conducts “flavor profiles” to taste and smell water samples. These flavor profiles employee a formal test procedure under controlled conditions to evaluate samples. Because individual sensitivity varies and people detect tastes and odors differently, it’s important to use more than one tester.
The lab uses stat-of-the-art instruments to test water samples for trace amounts of odor-causing compounds like geosmin and MIB. These tests can accurately measure levels of some chemicals to less than one part per trillion. Because the tests require specialized instrumentation, few laboratories have the capability to analyze these types of samples. Treated drinking water tests for bacteria and chemical contaminants are more reliable indicators of safe water than our senses of taste and odor.
How is water treated for tastes and odors?
To reduce the taste and odor of chlorine, Aqua uses chloramine in many of its systems. Scientists carefully monitor the amount of chlorine added to the water supply to control chlorinous odors and maintain disinfection for safety.
Chlorine can also eliminate some tastes and odors caused by algae, but geosmin and MIB must be removed through a process called adsorption, in which powdered-activated carbon (PAC) is used to remove the chemicals from the water. Aqua uses PAC at its water treatment plants to improve the taste and odor of the water.
Algae blooms normally occur in surface water during hot and dry conditions. When an algae bloom produces geosmin or MIB, the amount of PAC used is increased. Sometimes large doses of PAC can lessen the taste or odor problem but not eliminate it completely.
Aqua tries to prevent algae blooms by controlling sediment and nutrients in our reservoirs through watershed protection activities, the weeding of aquatic plants and reservoir maintenance, including dredging projects.
What can customers do?
Tastes and odors are less noticeable in cold water and more apparent in water that is kept at room temperature or heated. Chilling a pitcher of water in the refrigerator overnight will usually make chlorine disappear and eliminate a chlorinous taste and odor. Water that lacks chlorine should remain refrigerated like any other opened beverage, to reduce the chances of bacteria growth.
Aqua would like to know when and where customers are detecting tastes and odors. Please call 877.987.2782 if you notice a change in the way your water tastes or smells. We track these calls closely so we can address problems that might occur and improve the quality of the water delivered to your home.
Mar 18, 2022 : A special message to Aqua Pennsylvania’s Tanglwood Lakes water customers: Water outages caused by power system failures are being addressed.
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A special message to Aqua Pennsylvania’s Tanglwood Lakes water customers: Water outages caused by power system failures are being addressed.
Mar 18, 2022
An Important Message from Aqua Pennsylvania, Inc.
For several years, the Tanglwood Lakes community has been impacted by reoccurring brief electrical power disruptions which result in a temporary water disruption. The local power provider, Pennsylvania Power & Light (PPL), is aware of the issue and has reported to Aqua that the electrical service they are providing is within an approved threshold. We are currently monitoring the incoming power so we can provide this data to PPL . These brief power interruptions impact the control systems used at Aqua’s well stations in Tanglwood Lakes. Although Aqua has multiple emergency backup generators onsite in the community, the electric service interruptions are generally too brief to trigger Aqua’s emergency generators to start. Currently the only way for Aqua to reset its control systems is for an employee to perform a manual reset at the well station. This process takes some time to complete as the Aqua employee must drive to the site to perform this manual reset process. Aqua is currently working with its electrical controls contractor to develop a “remote” reset that will eliminate the need for an employee to drive to the well station to perform the manual operation.
Aqua appreciates your patience as we develop this workaround to the electrical service instability issue in the Tanglwood Lakes community. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Aqua’s Customer Service at 1-877-987-2782.
Mar 13, 2022 : Chester County and Lancaster County area customers
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Chester County and Lancaster County area customers
Mar 13, 2022
Chester County and Lancaster County area customers: We are aware that Pennsylvania American Water has issued a boil water advisory for this area. Please note that this does not affect Aqua Pennsylvania customers.
Jan 05, 2022 : Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP)
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Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP)
Jan 05, 2022
The Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) is a NEW emergency water assistance program that was created by the federal government to help families that are experiencing hardship with their water bills.
LIHWAP will assist Pennsylvania families who are behind on their wastewater and drinking water bills to ensure their service remains active and can also be used to restore service that was previously disconnected.
LIHWAP is a grant paid directly to Aqua for the customer's account. Learn more by viewing our handout.
May 20, 2021 : Pennsylvania Emergency Rental Assistance Program
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Pennsylvania Emergency Rental Assistance Program
May 20, 2021
Do you need help to pay your rent or utility bills?
If you lost your job or are experiencing financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you may qualify for rent or utility assistance through Pennsylvania’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP).
The program provides funds to cover rent, utility bills and other housing-related expenses for eligible households.
Who is eligible?
To qualify, a tenant’s household income must be 80 percent or less than the county Area Median Income (AMI) and they must have encountered one of the following since March 13, 2020:
- Qualified for unemployment benefits,
- Encountered a reduction in income,
- Incurred significant costs, or
- Faced other financial hardship due, directly
or indirectly, to COVID-19.
Pennsylvanians can apply for themselves as tenants, or a landlord can apply on behalf of current tenant(s). Renters can get assistance for up to 12 months of utility bills &/or rent payments. ERAP income limits vary by county (view income limits) and your local ERAP office makes the final grant determination.
For more information on how to apply, visit www.compass.state.pa.us, call 211, text 898211, or visit www.dhs.pa.gov for your local county office.
Additional information on this program can be found on Aqua's website here.
Programa de Ayuda para Alquiler y Servicios. El Departamento de Human Services (DHS) ofrece asistencia de ayuda para alquiler y servicios.
Sep 17, 2020 : Aqua and DELCORA will ensure quality service at affordable rates. Chris Franklin, Essential Utilities Chairman and CEO discusses acquisition and merger of operations.
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Aqua and DELCORA will ensure quality service at affordable rates. Chris Franklin, Essential Utilities Chairman and CEO discusses acquisition and merger of operations.
Sep 17, 2020
By Chris Franklin, Essential Utilities Chairman and CEO
Aqua and DELCORA are continuing to make progress toward the completion of an acquisition and merger of operations that will ensure continued reliable wastewater service at the most affordable rates for thousands of Delaware County and Chester County wastewater customers, despite opposing efforts.
Unfortunately, the efforts of Delaware County Council to thwart the transaction are costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and frivolously postponing the opportunity for DELCORA ratepayers to receive future rate relief through a trust specifically set up to benefit customers of DELCORA. Today, I wanted to reiterate why this acquisition and merger of operations is so beneficial to ratepayers.
What first prompted the decision by DELCORA to seek a partner is the forthcoming tidal wave of mandated environmental improvements and capital costs. The primary driver of these costs is a requirement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that all combined (sanitary and storm water) sewer systems, like those in Chester and Philadelphia, be dramatically reduced or eliminated. As a result, DELCORA faces capital improvements costs to upgrade the combined sewer system in Chester and a large portion of the system in Philadelphia with a price tag of almost$700 million. In addition, through 2042, DELCORA projects the need to spend another$520 million in capital upgrades. These staggering costs total approximately $1.2 billion.
Staring at this forthcoming tidal wave of costs, the DELCORA board voted to seek a partner who could help manage this work and associated costs, was knowledgeable about the local community, and was committed to maintaining its existing work force. After an exhaustive and transparent process that included community open houses, public meetings with Delaware County Council and numerous meetings with local municipal sewer authorities, DELCORA chose to partner with Aqua.
Our company is proud to partner with DELCORA because we have a long and deep history in Delaware County, where we were founded. We know the county and its people, having served the county first as Springfield Water Company beginning in1886 and where we now serve approximately 500,000 Delaware County residents.
The merger has other significant benefits. The DELCORA/Aqua merger of operations includes the creation of a trust fund from the net proceeds of the sale price, expected to be about$200 million. This trust will keep rates at a steady 3% annual increase while also allowing all the mandated improvements to be made. Without this trust, rates were expected to spike to10% annually. Unfortunately, some politicians, in an attempt to get control of the$200 million, are mischaracterizing the use of the trust. To be clear, if Aqua/DELCORA makes the necessary capital improvements, and the PUC deems the expenditures to be prudent, those costs will be recovered in rates. The $200 million would be used to offset those rate increases, capping them at no more than 3% a year for the next decade. It is important that Delaware County Council does not raid this trust and use it for other projects or programs.
We must act quickly, since DELCORA’s contract with the City of Philadelphia to manage a part of its wastewater treatment expires in 2028 and the improvements are expected to take eight years to complete. Time is running out.
Today, I encourage all customers served by DELCORA, including those served by Darby Creek Joint Authority, Muckinipates Authority, Central Delaware County Authority, Chester Ridley Creek System, Southwest Delaware County Municipal Authority, and Southern Delaware County Authority to contact Delaware County Council and tell them to stop blocking this acquisition and merger of operations, which will bring rate relief to customers. This acquisition and merger of operations benefits customers. It brings necessary upgrades to the wastewater system. It preserves jobs. It is good for Delaware County.
Aug 21, 2020 : Sunoco Mariner East Pipeline Drilling Fluid discharge update
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Sunoco Mariner East Pipeline Drilling Fluid discharge update
Aug 21, 2020
Aqua continues to monitor our water quality and source water supplies relative to the August 10 discharge from Sunoco’s drilling operations. There are no new updates, and no concerns about our water quality delivered to customers or ability to serve. Unless new developments occur, this will be the last update.
- People Served
- 1,5 mil
- Water Connections
- Wastewater Connections
- Water Treatment Facilities
- Wastewater Treatment Facilities
- Miles of Main
- Public Water Systems (PWSIDs)
Aqua Pennsylvania Service Territory
Aqua Pennsylvania, an Essential Utilities Company, serves more than 1.4 million residents in 32 counties across the Keystone State. Pennsylvania customers can pay their Aqua water bill online through WaterSmart e-billing or any number of convenient ways to pay. For those in need of water bill assistance, our Pennsylvania Helping Hand program is designed to help low-income customers make manageable monthly payments.
Chloramines are a commonly used disinfectant in drinking water. This is used in many water systems across the U.S., including some of Aqua Pennsylvania’s systems. You can learn more about chloramines here.
Please visit our Waterfacts.com site for information, test results and more relating to PFOA and PFOS.
Learn more about lead and drinking water, and Aqua's customer-owned Lead Service Line Replacement Program here.
Recent news articles have created interest in chromium, a naturally occurring metal found in the Earth's crust and in untreated water. It's important to note that all of Aqua's water is within the EPA's limits for this contaminant. Click here for facts about chromium and its impact on drinking water.
Learn more about Pennsylvania's new Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) by viewing our handout.
For any questions or concerns relating to customer service, please call 877.987.2782
Southeastern Division: Parts of Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties.
Roaring Creek/Susquehanna Division: Parts of Adams, Bradford, Columbia, Cumberland, Juniata, Northumberland, Schuylkill and Snyder counties.
Honesdale/White Haven Division: Parts of Carbon, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Monroe, Northampton, Pike, Schuylkill, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties.
Shenango Division: Parts of Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Forest, Lawrence, Mckean, Mercer, Venango, and Warren counties.
Water Sources: Surface water from the Crum, Pickering, Brandywine, Perkiomen, Neshaminy, Ridley and Chester creeks, Schuylkill and Delaware rivers and the Upper Merion Quarry and the Shenango River in western Pennsylvania and groundwater from more than 100 deep wells.
- Current Water Tariff - Rules and Regulations
- Current Wastewater Tariff - Rules and Regulations
- Twin Lakes Utilities, Inc. Water Tariff
- North Heidelberg Sewer Company Tariff
Aqua Pennsylvania Leadership Team
Vice President, Distribution
Vice President, Production (plants)
Director of Chester County Operations
Director of Delaware County Operations
Director of Montgomery and Bucks Operations
Northeastern, Northern, Central and Western Pennsylvania
Director of Operations
Western Area Manager
Central Area Manager
Northeastern Area Manager
Thomas F Rafferty
Director, Municipal Partnerships, Aqua Pennsylvania
Municipal Partnerships Manager, Aqua Pennsylvania
VP, Municipal Partnerships
Helping Hand: PA Low-income Water Bill Assistance
What Is Helping Hand?
Helping Hand is Aqua Pennsylvania’s low-income assistance program designed to enable low-income customers to make manageable monthly payments on their water and wastewater bills.
Customers who make timely payments through Helping Hand receive a monthly credit to their accounts. The program provides customers with water conservation kits that provide customers with information and tools on how to use less water (this is mentioned below in blue).
Am I eligible for Helping Hand?
Customers who meet all three criteria below are eligible to participate in Helping Hand.
- Household income is less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level
- Account is more than 21 days past due
- Customer has at least $110 in unpaid Aqua bills
How do I sign up for Helping Hand?
If you think you might be eligible for Helping Hand call 800.360.2998 or the agency listed below that is closest to your residence. If you are unsure which agency to call, please call Aqua at 877.987.2782.
If you are eligible for Helping Hand, Aqua will work with the referring agency to develop a payment plan for you. In this plan a customer would pay:
- A fixed monthly payment based on average bills for the preceding 12-month period.
Helping Hand rewards customers who make timely payments with a credit to their account. First-time Helping Hand customers also receive a complimentary water conservation kit with information about how to detect and fix leaks and identify and make minor plumbing repairs that can help reduce consumption. The kit includes:
- Leak detection tablets and tips on detecting and fixing leaks
- A low-flow shower head
- Faucet aerators
How can I give others a Helping Hand?
If you don’t need the assistance of Helping Hand, but want to help others who do, please print and complete this form (PDF document) with the amount of your tax-deductible donation and include it in the envelope along with your regular Aqua water/sewer bill payment. Your donation will go towards water/sewer bill credits for customers who are less fortunate.
Helping Hand Agencies
After Aqua Pennsylvania has determined your eligibility, you will be directed to one of the following agencies that will continue processing your enrollment.
Community Action Agency of Delaware County
1414 Meetinghouse Road
Boothwyn, PA 19061
Community Action Development Commission
113 East Main Street
Norristown, PA 19401
Central Susquehanna Opportunities, Inc.
2 East Arch Street
Shamokin, PA 17872
All Other Pennsylvania Counties
EBO Solutions, LLC
A Division of NRA Group, LLC
2491 Paxton Street
Harrisburg, PA 17111
Aqua Pennsylvania History
Aqua Pennsylvania was founded as the Springfield Water Company on January 4, 1886, when a group of Swarthmore College professors received a charter to supply water to the residents of Springfield Township, Delaware County. They built a small pumping station and laid pipes to their homes. Initially, new customers were welcomed openly, but as the number of potential customers increased, so did the association’s operating responsibilities. It was then that the association made the decision to incorporate.
By 1925, the company had grown to meet the needs of 58 municipalities in three counties, and shareholders changed the name to Philadelphia Suburban Water Company.
In 1968, the water company board voted to create a holding company, Philadelphia Suburban Corporation (PSC). By July 1971, Aqua America, Aqua Pennsylvania’s parent company, was listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
Growth slowed between 1985 and 1990, but then the company purchased three Chester County water systems. These acquisitions gave birth to the company’s “growth-through-acquisition” strategy, which began to accelerate at the end of 1992. Between 1992 and 1999, it purchased 29 water systems and three wastewater systems — a business it entered in 1996. The company also completed several other growth ventures, including main extensions to pick up additional customers, bulk water sales, and operating and management contracts. Together, these acquisitions added approximately 56,000 customers to the system.
In March 1999, Aqua America acquired Consumers Water Company and the utility’s operations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey and Maine, adding more than 225,000 customer connections in five states, including 41,000 in Pennsylvania.
January 1, 2002, Philadelphia Suburban Water Company merged into Pennsylvania Suburban Water Company. Two years later effective January 16, 2004, Pennsylvania Suburban Water Company changed its name to Aqua Pennsylvania, Inc. to reflect its statewide presence. The parent company name was changed from PSC to Aqua America, reflecting its national presence.
Aqua Pennsylvania continued to grow the company and by year-end 2015, provided water and wastewater service to more than 445,000 customers (approximately 1.4 million people) in 32 counties.