A group of Steelton residents called for the resignations of the borough’s mayor and other water authority members Monday over their handling of water treatment issues discovered by the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection.
Further, resident Candice Ann Kinter said she planned to start the process this week of trying to recall Mayor Tom Acri.
“The residents, they can do anything they want to do. They can call for anything they want,” said Acri.
The calls for resignations came during the Steelton Water Authority’s first meeting since the DEP announced earlier this month that the water treatment facility’s former chief operator fabricated reports. In addition, DEP found on at least 24 days in 2013, the water was not properly disinfected.
Acri and borough manager Sara Gellatly apologized for not talking to the public until two days after DEP’s announcement.
“We apologize. Moving forward we are going to do our best to make sure that never happens again,” said Gellatly.
Acri and Gellatly declined to answer any questions after the meeting about the water quality issues.
“There were significant violations in 2013,” said Rodney Nesmith, who manages DEP’s water supply program.
Nesmith stressed there are no ongoing health concerns with the water. DEP discovered the issues during an inspection in November. Nesmith said the state does full inspections every three years but can also respond to complaints as they come in.
“If we have concerns about some aspect of the operation, we will certainly stop into a plant any time the department sees the need to do so,” said Nesmith.
He added that DEP did not receive any complaints about Steelton’s water quality before the November inspection.
However, some residents have attended public meetings the last two weeks, saying they believe the water contributed to illnesses.
“Even taking a shower, I got a rash from that,” said Joyce Culpepper. “My problem was I didn’t report it to anybody because I didn’t think there was anything to report.”
Residents passed around a petition seeking the resignations of the water authority’s members.
Rep. Patty Kim (D-103rd) called for a majority of the authority’s members to resign. She didn’t specify which members she thought should step down but said the resignations would be helpful in restoring public trust.
“People are still worried about their water. I think we need to have the majority of board members resign from the water authority,” said Kim.
Gina Roberson, who is seeking Kim’s House seat, passed out water bottles to residents who still have concerns about their water quality.
“DEP notified (the borough) in November. They claim they didn’t hear anything until February, but we’re in April. Something’s wrong with that picture,” said Roberson.
The water authority is paying a $55,000 fine. Mayor Acri said that will not lead to higher bills but will cause the authority to delay some improvement projects.
“They should not hold information back from us down here. Our water bills are sky high. Our sewage bills are sky high,” Joyce Culpepper said.