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Authority Shores Up Water Quality

Water system serves 130,000 people.

The Loudoun County Sanitation Authority (LCSA) is in the clear when it comes to clean water.

The water authority released the 2002 Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) last month, an annual report that identifies the types and amounts of contaminants in the water system from water samples collected and analyzed throughout the year. The CCR reports that the drinking water in LCSA's distribution system meets the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards required by the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

LCSA distributes water to about 43,000 metered customers in the unincorporated areas of eastern Loudoun, or 130,000 people. LCSA, which is headquartered in Leesburg, provides both water and waste-water services to nearly all of the residents and businesses east of Route 15.

"I'm very pleased with it because we met all of our standards," said Samantha Villegas, manager of communications for LCSA, adding that the Sanitation Authority did not have any monitoring violations in 2002 and corrected those from the year before. The state had rejected the third quarter 2001 samples from one of the contaminants after the samples broke during shipment and found that LCSA failed to complete the monitoring requirements for water quality parameters.

IN RESPONSE, LCSA changed the sampling schedule to allow more time for resends, opened the Raspberry Falls Regional Laboratory in June and hired a full-time staff person to work in the Leesburg laboratory. The Leesburg laboratory is the first for LCSA and an addition to the mini-labs located at the smaller packaged treatment plants throughout the county, which are used to test treated waste-water samples.

"It's larger and it gives us more ability than we had before to test samples," Villegas said.

In 2002, LCSA tested water samples to show the level of 22 contaminants, including microbial, metal and other natural and man-made components. The SWDA, which was passed in 1974 and amended twice, requires samples to be tested for the presence of bacteria, trihalomethanes, lead and copper in water. A small amount of contaminants can be in drinking water without posing a health risk.

"These results reflect our commitment to water quality monitoring, and the report is part of our commitment to customer communication," said Dale Hammes, LCSA's general manager, according to a statement from LCSA.

The CCR lists the contaminants detected in water and compares them to the maximum contaminant levels allowed under the SDWA, along with providing information on LCSA's sources of water and where and how the water is treated. LCSA's water comes from the Potomac River through a purchase agreement with the Fairfax County Water Authority and from Goose Creek through an agreement with the City of Fairfax.

"A lot of it is required language," Villegas said about the report. "Every year, I try to put in more information than they require."

THIS YEAR, Villegas included information on three capital improvement projects LCSA undertook to improve the overall water system. They include:

* Brambleton water storage tank, a 2.5 million gallon water storage tank that will become fully operational in 2004, a cost of $3.6 million. Currently, LCSA owns and operates two elevated water storage tanks in Broadlands and one standpipe in Sterling with a total storage capacity of 6.8 million gallons to maintain pressure and backup for fire flow.

* Route 606 water main, a 13,650-foot water main that in November 2003 will connect the northeast part of LCSA's system to the system's southern part in South Riding, a cost of $1.3 million.

* Water pressure vaults, six pressure reducing vaults that will be installed in the Ashburn area in 2003 to improve the system's operation and reduce high water pressure in low laying areas, a cost of $600,000.

"I'm very pleased with how the year went and how the water is doing. It says a lot to have such good water quality with so much snow and rain flowing into the system. It's an added challenge to maintain the disinfection levels," Villegas said, adding that maintaining water quality is "almost easier" in a drought when less water is in the system.

The EPA has required utilities to provide their customers with an annual CCR since 1999.

"My concern is that we adequately protect our surface water resources for decades in the future," said Supervisor Charles Harris (D-Broad Run), who focuses on water issues in the county. "Our subsurface water quality seems to be good, but it seems we are having to go deeper and it depends where you're at. We need to do more study and analysis of our underground water supplies."