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Taps Flowing Again As Suburban Pittsburgh Water Company Resumes Pumping With AM-Fuel Spill Bjt

January 11, 1988

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ A suburban water company re-opened its pumps Sunday to bring water to the last pocket of customers with dry spigots since an oil spill polluted the Monongahela and Ohio rivers a week earlier.

″This is the best news I’ve ever had in my life,″ said Joe Wiesner, general manager of the Robinson Township Water Authority. ″There’s been tremendous improvement, but we’re asking people to conserve water for another day until we fill our storage tanks.″

As of 6:30 p.m., all customers served by the authority were receiving tap water, including a pocket of 300 to 500 people in neighboring North Fayette Township who had been without water for seven days, said Betsy Mallison, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Resources.

About 23,000 customers had been left high and dry at the peak of the crisis.

″It may not be their regular volume of water, but everybody should have some water,″ said Ms. Mallison, It was hard to determine when service would be back to normal, she said.

Robinson shut its 1.5 million-gallon intake Jan. 3 after an Ashland Oil Co. tank ruptured and polluted the rivers with diesel fuel the day before. One million gallons fouled the Monongahela and Ohio rivers, and about 260,000 gallons has been recovered.

The pump roared to life at 12:45 p.m. Sunday. Even though relief was on the way, some customers were chaffing over the ordeal.

″It’s been a pain. It’s been an inconvenience all around,″ said Charlene Rozman, a mother of two teen-age children in North Fayette Township. ″I was never meant to be a pioneer.″

Residents queued up Sunday for their daily ration of water at the North Fayette Township Volunteer Fire Department, where a National Guard tank provided drinking water for what volunteers hoped was the last time.

″People are really getting hostile. They’re really getting upset. It’s getting frustrating,″ said Lou James, president of the fire company.

Until the intake reopened, water trickled into the system from pipelines jury-rigged to two neighboring water companies.

Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency planned to meet Monday to decide when to lift a mandatory conservation order.

″We still have oil in the river and an unstable situation,″ PEMA Director Joseph LaFleur said.

The cleanup is still under way. Small patches of oil remain in the area of the spill at West Elizabeth on the Monongahela and the Dashields Lock and Dam on the Ohio, a distance of 44 miles.

″Cleaning them up is very tedious. You just reach down by hand clean it up with a pad,″ said Coast Guard spokesman Todd Nelson.

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