With the Pennsylvania American Water Company (PAWC)’s Boil Water Advisory sill impacting the Lower Providence Township community, the Montgomery County Department of Health has stepped in to offer area business owners a chance to understand what must be done to keep an establishment, especially those offering food and drink, open.
Currently, the township has a mixed bag of those that are closing up shop and those that are going great lengths to stay open. Chap’s Taproom closed its doors around 3 p.m. with a sign at the front door stating it was closing “due to a water issue.” On the restaurant’s Facebook page, the organization said that due to a call from the health department, the earliest they’d be able to reopen is Friday morning.
Other locations, such as the Audubon Ale House, are able to remain open as it is a customer of Audubon Water Company, whose customers have not been impacted by the contamination. Likewise, businesses and homes that are served by this AWC are able to use water freely, and not worry about boiling.
Though the AWC’s website states that it does have “interconnection for emergency used with PAWC,” no such arrangement is in the works at this time.
In the area, locations such as the Burger King at Trooper and Ridge, the Dairy Queen in Trooper and Chickie’s and Pete’s in Audubon are closed as of 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. No reopening times were posted.
Trooper Diner employees told LP TAP they are remaining open and “boiling water before we serve” anything. Tosco’s was also still open as of 3 p.m.
Owners and operators of the Main Street Pizza along Ridge Pike and Mount Kirk are keeping its doors open after going to great lengths to keep its customers safe.
From purchasing ice made out of the area, to boiling any water used for food preparation, including its homemade dough, Main Street Pizza employees said they plan to remain open offering area diners somewhere to order from tonight.
Relying heavily on plastic utensils and offering only bottled, not fountain, beverages, the restaurant hopes to continue to serve its customers. According to the County’s department of health’s website, they are permitted to do so.
The department has issued a checklist for food and beverage operators to allow for field inspectors’ use while inspecting facilities for the ability to remain open. The list asks first if the facility is supplied water from PAWC.
If a restaurant is supplied by PAWC, the site states “The Facility must immediately close unless they can provide an approved alternative source of water, i.e. licensed potable drinking water tanker truck connected to main water supply.”
It does allow for retail food facilities to remain open to “sell only prepackaged items.”
Facilities must do the following immediately:
· Discontinue use of post-mix carbonated beverage machine, auto-fill coffee maker, instant hot water heater. Remove any filters.
· Discard existing ice made after the advisory (around 7 p.m. Tuesday)
· Discard any ready-to-eat food prepared with water prior to the advisory
· Discontinue use of spray misting units (grocery store produce, seafood, meat cases) and discard any foods exposed to misters after the advisory was issued or any that may have been exposed to contaminated water prior to the advisory
· Provide hand sanitizer for use at all hand sinks (if remaining open)
· Post a notice advising patrons not to use tap water for drinking or for brushing teeth
Following the advisory’s lift, the establishment must also follow strict requirements to remain open and safe for its customers, including flushing all water lines, cleaning all food surfaces and ice machines, any machines that use water (soda, coffee, spray misters, dishwashers, etc.), change any water filters, run water softeners through a “regeneration” cycle and flush all fountains for at least five minutes.
In addition to the food and drink establishments in the area, schools, grocery stores, convenience stores and any locations offering ice, utensils or water of any kind must also adhere to the advisory.
The Montgomery County director of communicaitons, Frank Custer, said that the department is trying to reach out to those businesses now to establish capabilities and access to clean water.
"The Health Department is in the process of contacting all the restaurants and food establishments in the county, and determining whether they can remain open or not," said Custer. He explained that the department is using a checklist to determine steps necessary to remain open.
"Some rest have a greater capability to provide water from a tank or something like that," said Custer. "If that restaurant is able to, they remain open. If they are not able to, or have useable water, they will have to close."
Numbers were not currently available on those forced to closed their doors during the advisory as the department is still in the process of reaching out to area businesses.
Methacton School District opted to send its students home early that were impacted by the water issue. The high school, Arcola, Skyview and Eagleville Elementary were all sent home early as the facilities could not provide lunch. Locations such as Audubon, Arrowhead, Worcester and Woodland were permitted to stay open as they do not obtain water services through PAWC.
According to the department of health, the following municipalities are still affected by the boil water advisory:
· East Norriton
· West Norriton
· Lower Providence
Those that are supplied water through PAWC in those areas are asked to boil all water prior to use for consumption or dishes. As the laundry piles up, dishes remain unwashed and cars get dirtier, the area’s PAWC users are also asked to remain on the Conservancy Advisory, which limits the use of water to only the most necessary of uses, such as flushing toilets and showering.
According to the National Weather Service (NWS) the same areas remain under a flash flood advisory as heavy rains and thunderstorms are expected through Friday morning. The rains over the past few weeks is what PAWC says caused the issue in the first place.
The Lower Providence Fire Department, at Ridge and Mount Kirk, is home to free fresh water. A tank provided by PAWC is being manned 24/7 according to company officials at the site. The tank is being covered by a 10x10 tent, as well, to help with the incoming rain. Residents are asked to bring along their own containers and jugs for filling.
In the meantime, the poor water quality and boil water advisory makes a convenient excuse not to cook. Main Street Pizza and Grille, located at 3140 W. Ridge Pike, Eagleville, will remain open for dining-in, take-out and delivery. Call them at 610-539-3305 to place an order.