Residents in the area of Hershey and Palmyra took to Facebook this past weekend looking for answers on why their tap water was more chlorinated than usual.

“I thought it might be my bike bottles but I smell it in the shower and sinks as well,” said one local Facebook user. “We also noticed the smell,” said another. “I gave my daughter a bath and she started to crying saying it hurts.”

Pennsylvania American Water confirmed via email Sunday, Feb. 6, that its Hershey system indeed had elevated chlorinated levels throughout the weekend, but noted that the treatment plant has since returned to normal levels of chlorine and some customers have already reported that the unusual taste and smell the water has dissipated.

Pennsylvania American Water external affairs manager David Misner said that rain and snowmelt washed road salt and other organic materials into the creek supplying water for the Hershey system, requiring elevated chlorine levels to treat the water.

Although the increased chlorine affected the water’s taste and smell, Misner said that it was still safe to drink and not cause for public concern.

“As temperatures now permit, we have also started hydrant flushing in areas of our system to expedite the process and return water to normal taste and smell,” he said.

Pennsylvania American Water’s Hershey Water Treatment Plant is located in the area of Sand Beach along Manada Creek. The system serves the following Lebanon County municipalities: Annville, North Annville, North Londonderry, Palmyra, South Annville, and South Londonderry.

Update Monday, Feb. 7: After receiving comments from Lebanon residents noting that they too detected elevated chlorine levels in their tap water, LebTown reached out to the Lebanon Water Authority for more information. Jon Beers, executive director of the Lebanon Water Authority, said that chlorine levels were slightly elevated on Thursday and Friday, also due to the rain, ice, snow melt, road salt, and dirty water in the Swatara Creek from the rains on those days.

The Lebanon Water Authority sources its water from the Siegrist Dam in Schuylkill County and from the Swatara Creek in Jonestown. The system serves residents in the following municipalities: Cleona, Jonestown, Lebanon, North Cornwall, North Lebanon, South Lebanon, Swatara, and Union. About 200 residents are also served across Annville and West Lebanon townships.

For those interested in learning more about the ins and outs of water supply in Lebanon County, Beers noted that a recent book he authored delves into the history of Lebanon’s public water supply. The City of Lebanon Authority: History of Lebanon, PA’s Water and Sewer Systems is available for purchase at the Lebanon County Historical Society, the Cornwall Iron Furnace and at the Authority’s office, 2311 Ridgeview Road, Lebanon for $25.

Beers’ goal was to update an earlier effort by the late Maury Erdman in time to celebrate the 150th year of public water being supplied to the Lebanon community. Only a single copy of Erdman’s book is in existence, and Beers worked with the Lebanon County Historical Society to digitize that copy and safely build upon the earlier work, which ended in 1994 with the completion of the Siegrist Dam.

“While the subject of providing an urban water supply might not sound exciting, it is as old as and more vital to civilization than practically anything else,” said Lebanon County Historical Society archivist Dr. Bruce Bomberger in a release about the book’s availability. “As a public undertaking for the public good, the history of the Authority’s accomplishments and ongoing service is an activity that all who receive its benefits should understand and appreciate in its transparency in the records of both its successes and difficulties.”

Beers will be presenting a slide show and a discussion about the history of Lebanon’s water at the Lebanon County Historical Society on Sunday April 24, 2022, 1:30 PM, 924 Cumberland Street.

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