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Officials: Low pH Levels In Water No Cause For Alarm

Township Manager Robert Vornlocker said a letter is going out to residents, explaining the issue. (File Photo).

News that low pH levels were found in the township water supply earlier this year should not be a cause of concern for residents, township officials said on December 10.

That’s because the potential effects of low pH in water pipes were not detected, and the problem has since been resolved, the officials said.

The pH – potential hydrogen – levels in water can make it acidic if they are too low, and alkaline if they are too high, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Low pH levels can lead to heavy metals, such as lead and copper, being infused in drinking water from water pipes.

Slightly low pH levels were detected in March and April in several interconnection spots, which are where the township’s water distribution system picks up the water from its wholesalers.

The township buys water from N.J. American Water, New Brunswick and South Brunswick.

Those low pH levels were probably mainly caused by salt runoff into water sources from snow at the end of last winter, said Carl Hauck, the township’s Public Works manager.

“They were just slightly out of range on the lower side, it was not anything that needed to be a 24-hour, immediate flush or boil water or anything like that,” Hauck said. “Nobody was in any danger.”

The problem has been dealt with, and levels are normal now, Township Manager Robert Vornlocker said.

In a December 6 memo to Hauck, Vornlocker detailed the corrective measures that were taken:

  • Performing additional flushing to ensure sampling standards are compliant
  • Working with our suppliers at the interconnections in monitoring and reporting values out of range with supplier treatment adjustments
  • Installation of real-time SCADA monitoring and reporting on the affected interconnection sites.
  • Installation of treatment at the affected interconnection sites.

Hauck said the township has had “no issue with lead or copper” because the water has been tested for those metals “for decades.” That testing, he said, was escalated after the water issues in Flint, Michigan, came to light.

Hauck said the water is tested in individual homes twice a year. Those testing spots change with each round, he said.

Vornlocker said the levels never sank to the level that would have required a boil water alert, nor is there any indication of lead in the water.

A letter describing the problem has been sent to residents, Vornlocker said.

Vornlocker said that the letter was sent out after the state Department of Environmental Protection notified the Township that it needed to send out the letters and tell residents what happened.

“This is something that is fairly new reporting, and it’s not an immediate report,” Vornlocker said.

“It’s called water quality parameter levels,” he said. “There’s a whole list of things included. Anything in that list, if it’s out of the parameters, requires this particular form letter to go out.”

Vornlocker said he did not believe that there were many houses in the township that have lead water pipes, “but there certainly are houses that may have lead pipes. Many of us have copper pipes.”

“But in this case, there was a low pH level and it was not significantly low, and in subsequent testing, those results have corrected,” he said.

“We just did 120 samples … at the end of June and December,” Hauck said. “Everything came up fine.”

“I don’t believe there’s a cause for panic,” Vornlocker said. “We’re monitoring it and we continue to monitor it.”

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