An investigation continues into the source of the gaseous substance that contaminated the town of Louisa’s water supply last week, according to an update from the town manager and Louisa County Water Authority. The cause of the leak is still unknown.
“I want our users to know this—your water is safe,” Pam Baughman, general manager of the water authority, said in a statement. “The treatment plant’s state of the art nanofiltration system continues to operate exactly as designed, and we test regularly. Our personnel are committed to working with the Town to deliver safe, clean water.”
An unknown gas was found Thursday afternoon in the town’s water supply prompting some emergency evacuations and the county water authority to issue a “do not use” order. The contamination level did not represent an explosive risk, but could indicate a health hazard, the city said.
Parts of the town, within a half-mile of Glen Marye Shopping Center, were evacuated to help identify the cause of the gas leak. Other residents were asked to stop cooking, drinking, showering and flushing toilets with the water. Schools were closed Friday, and one was used as an emergency shelter for those evacuated.
The evacuation and “do not use” order was lifted Friday after two rounds of laboratory testing indicated the water was safe to use.
Water authority and town personnel performed a full-system flush and worked with customers to assist with end-user flushing Friday afternoon. Staff responded to two calls over the weekend to check on suspicious circumstances, but no contaminants have been detected since the system flush.
“Safety is our No. 1 concern, and the water is completely safe right now,” Louisa Town Mayor Garland Nuckols said. “Our primary focus is on identifying the cause and we believe we may be close to doing so. In the meantime, citizens need to know that we are actively monitoring and testing. If anything out of the ordinary comes up, we’ll do exactly what we did last time—act quickly, notify widely, and do everything necessary to ensure that people are safe.”
Officials believe the gas detected was either natural or methane gas since those gases rise, and concentrations were higher near ceilings, the town’s statement said Tuesday. But the water system’s safeguard is designed to detect four gases including butane and propane, as well as the other two, and since the levels had dissipated upon additional testing on Friday, officials aren’t sure which gas raised the alarm.
The possibility of a sewer system gas buildup is also being evaluated. Authorities are considering a third-party engineering firm to assist in the investigation, the statement said.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Virginia Department of Health Office of Drinking Water, Virginia Department of Emergency Management and numerous other regulatory agencies were notified of the situation, and have reviewed test results and actions taken, the town said.
The town encouraged residents to sign up for the Citizen Alert System at louisacounty.com.