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Aqua Pennsylvania takes Emlenton Water from a DEP Boil Order to an EPA Safe Partnership Membership

On April 29, 2008, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a boil water order to customers of Emlenton Water Company, which served approximately 1,200 people in portions of Emlenton Borough and Richland Township, Venango County and Richland Township, and Clarion County in western Pennsylvania, as a result of several water quality issues.

In late November of that year, Aqua Pennsylvania (Aqua) – a subsidiary of Aqua America, one of the largest U.S.-based publically traded water and wastewater utility companies – began operating the utility as a certified operator under an emergency order from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC). The system had been brought to the attention of Aqua by the PUC, which had classified it as a “troubled” water system. During its tenure as operator, Aqua provided a certified operator to run the plant, and provided a water tanker truck and bottled water for customers’ potable water needs, including during the extended Thanksgiving weekend.

On December 31, 2008, Aqua officially acquired the Emlenton Water Company, entering a Consent Order Agreement (COA) as a commitment to the DEP that the problems it inherited would be resolved on or before July 1, 2012. Immediately after acquiring the system, Aqua scrambled to make temporary improvements that allowed it to lift the boil order in 23 days.

In February 2011, following two years and $4.5 million of capital investments in the system – and 17 months ahead of the deadline – Aqua had satisfied the requirements of the COA, providing a final testament to its aggressive actions and commitment to providing quality water and reliable service for the customers of Emlenton.

Specific improvements Aqua has made to the Emlenton water system include $2.8 million for construction of a new 288,000-gallon per day water treatment plant; $925,000 to replace 11,400 feet of old water main; and $392,000 of improvements to the existing finished water reservoir, including the installation of a dome roof.

Seventeen months after satisfying the COA, in July 2012, the Emlenton Plant celebrated its membership into the Partnership for Safe Water — a voluntary cooperative effort between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the American Water Works Association and other drinking water organizations, representing more than 200 surface water utilities throughout the United States. Emlenton’s participation in the partnership represents a true 180-degree turn for the facility, which just a few years earlier suffered through one of the longest boil orders in Pennsylvania and COA history.

Emlenton Borough Council President Barry Louise, who held the same office at the time of the acquisition, shared the following testimony in June 2015 about the borough’s continued experience with Aqua:

“Everything is going well in Emlenton and I still feel the same about Aqua — it’s a great company. Since Aqua installed the new water lines, we had a major fire at a 140-year-old feed mill. It had a good start before the fire department was called; the temperature that night was 10 degrees, and the river — which supplies additional water when we have a major fire — had frozen over. If it weren’t for the new water system put in by Aqua, which boosted our water volume and pressure, several homes would have been lost. As a result of the water system upgrades, only one other business was lost and three homes had heat damage. Thanks to Aqua, our great fire department and the other assisting fire departments, we were able to save many homes.”