News Briefs: Operator Accused of Stealing Water From Town for a Decade

In this week's water and wastewater news, a former water systems operator in New York is accused of stealing water from the town he served; and zebra mussels clog a water plant's intake screen in Texas

The former water systems operator for Hounsfield, New York, is accused of stealing water from the same town he served using a pipe connected to his property.

During the course of their maintenance duties, two town employees discovered the water line, prompting state police to charge the man, Jeffrey Kenney, with theft of services.

Some former town officials claim Kenney had the lateral installed nearly 10 years ago and has stolen water ever since. Those same former officials sent a letter to the town board asking that it pursue back payment from Kenney.

However, the town’s attorney says there’s no way to prove how much water Kenney stole, if any, in the absence of a proper water meter.

Zebra Mussels Block Off Intake Screen at a Texas Water Plant

Invasive zebra mussels recently were found clinging to an intake screen at the Handcox Water Treatment Plant in Austin, Texas.

About 50 percent of that screen was covered in mussels, according to utility officials, and another one 50 feet lower saw about 30 percent coverage.

The problem was anticipated, however, as Lake Travis was classified earlier this year as one of several lakes in the state infested with the invasives. Austin Water is trying to address the problem by hiring divers to clean off the intakes at a cost of $212,000 per year.

Oregon Is Now Testing Tap Water for Algae Contamination

Oregon has joined Ohio as one of only two states in the nation that require public water suppliers to test for toxins from algae, according to a report from NPR. The rule change came in the wake of an algae bloom that made its way into Salem’s tap water supply for the first time in the state’s history.

The city sent an alert message to citizens and within hours, the people of Salem had cleaned out grocery stores and gas stations of bottled water. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown called in the National Guard to hand out water.

The question now is: Will more states follow suit?

“Since the mid-2000s it’s gotten worse, and the worst blooms on record have happened more or less in the last 10 years,” Dr. Steven Wilhelm of the University of Tennessee, an algae expert, told NPR.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf Creates PFAS Action Team in Absence of Federal Measures

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf recently announced the establishment of a multi-agency action team to address growing national concerns surrounding per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

“This issue is by no means limited to Pennsylvania, but I am using all the authority I have to address this emerging environmental and public health issue because our residents deserve clean air, pure water and to know that the environment they live in is safe,” Wolf said in a statement. “I have consistently called on the federal government to demonstrate leadership by establishing national safe drinking water standards for PFAS, but in the absence of federal action, Pennsylvania will move forward aggressively to ensure Pennsylvania residents are protected.”

Wolf signed an executive order forming a PFAS action team that will be responsible for developing a comprehensive response to identify and eliminate sources of contamination. The team will be led by the secretaries of Environmental Protection, Health, Military and Veteran Affairs, Community and Economic Development, Agriculture, and the State Fire Commissioner. 


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