WHAT’S IN MY WATER?

NYPIRG’s New York State Drinking Water Profiles Project, 2017

What's In My Water?
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Clean water is essential for life and among our most precious resources. While federal and state laws are supposed to protect us, we know that public and private drinking water sources are under constant threat; that crumbling water infrastructure may further contaminate water supplies; and that government monitoring and enforcement resources face significant uncertainties at the federal level.

NYPIRG offers these drinking water profiles to educate New Yorkers about the state of their drinking water, the presence of contaminants found through laboratory testing, and location and nature of some potential threats to local drinking water. This information is offered as a public service and without commentary.

We’ve compiled this profile data from multiple government records sources as a “one-stop-shop” for information about your local public drinking water, information which is often posted publicly, but difficult to access or buried in dense reports. What’s In My Water? can help you:

  • Pinpoint primary aquifer and surface water sources for drinking water within the state
  • Identify potential threats to public drinking water facilities/sources
  • Find regulated and unregulated contaminants identified in drinking water supplies through test results
  • Enhance public understanding of drinking water supplies and how to safeguard them

Using the What’s In My Water? Search

The project contains two sets of data. First, you can search by ZIP code for information on your local public drinking water supply for recent testing data as contained in government records. This data contains information on the presence of regulated contaminants and unregulated contaminants detected in your water. Second, you can search a map to view potential threats to drinking water in your local area.
What’s In My Water?
Please let us know how we can make this project more informative and useful for you. For media inquiries and questions, please contact enviro@nypirg.org.

A SNAPSHOT OF NEW YORK’S WATER SYSTEMS

New York State has 2,324 active community-based public water systems that collectively provide the tap water to about 80% of the state’s population, or 16 million people. Another four million New Yorkers use private household wells. Every public water system, unless a specific exemption has been granted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or a designated state-level authority, is required to monitor levels of all contaminants that have been regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act and report those levels to the EPA.
The EPA also conducts a monitoring program for up to 30 specified contaminants that present potential health risks, but are not currently regulated under the law. The latest round of this monitoring program (the Third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, or UCMR-3) included testing for 30 unregulated contaminants between 2013 and 2016. Participation in the UCMR is required only in “large” systems serving 10,000 people or more, and in a limited sample of smaller systems. New York has 156 “large” systems that combine to serve about 13 million people, or 65% of the state population.
Of the 2,168 “small” systems that supply the other three million people connected to public systems, only 27 were selected for required testing under the UCMR-3. In part because only five additional contaminants have become regulated since the Safe Drinking Water Act was first enacted in 1974, much of the contaminant testing that is most pertinent to public health concerns gets done through the EPA’s unregulated contaminant monitoring program, and is not performed on the water supplies of about seven million New Yorkers.

Methodology

The database is designed to provide information on New York water supplies, the regulated and unregulated contaminants detected within drinking water, and potential threats to New York drinking water sources. Information was obtained from the New York State Department of Health (DOH); the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC); Primary Water Supplier reports; the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); and from other public records. A full list can be found below in the Sources of Information section.
The data in this database was collected over an eight month period from June 2016 to February 2017. The information was collected from EPA reports from 2013 to 2016, and from the most recent publicly available information from Public Water Systems (PWS), the DOH, and the DEC. The data was collected by NYPIRG researchers Anestoria Shalkowski, Ph.D., Brenden Colling, Robert Semon, and Claudia Stagoff-Belfort, with additional assistance from Megan Ahearn, Marty DeBenedictis, Kevin Dugan, Jayme Fai, Camille Goering, Russ Haven, Blair Horner, and Anais McAllister. We seek to update information when new water testing results are published by the relevant agencies.
Data is sorted based on ZIP codes and presented in charts and accompanied by maps that depict the threats to New York water systems identified in government databases. Information about toxic release sites, landfills and power plants are listed in the “Sources of Information” section below. NYPIRG compiled publicly available information and makes no claim on the completeness or accuracy of this data. In reference to information obtained from the EPA, the agency acknowledges that the dataset is not complete.
Limitations
  1. The database consists of reporting from Public Water System (PWS) entities that are classified as community providers, or community-based systems. Community-based systems provide a consistent steady flow of water to a specified area throughout the year. This list was compiled from the DOH and the EPA lists of Public Water Systems in New York.
    Attempts were made to include the operating address for each PWS company listed in this database, often from publicly available information such as an annual report.
  2. Water source information was obtained from the Public Water System’s annual report. Where such reports were not available, source water information was obtained from EPA reports.
  3. The test results you will see on What’s In My Water? measure contaminant levels after water has been treated.
  4. Testing data on regulated contaminants was obtained from the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS). Listings of regulated contaminants are available in SDWIS when those testing levels violate the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL), there is a Treatment Technique violation (TT), or when there is a Monitoring and Reporting violation (MR). Reports of contaminants detected at levels below the MCL do not appear on this site. However, more information may be available in Public Water System annual reports.
  5. Testing data of unregulated contaminants were obtained from the EPA’s Third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR-3). The rule requires the EPA to periodically identify no more than 30 contaminants which might warrant future regulation and require monitoring for those specified contaminants in all large systems (serving 10,000 people or more) and in a select sampling of smaller systems. Therefore, some systems do not go through this monitoring process. Federal law does not stipulate an enforceable health standard for unregulated contaminants.
    As of 2016, the Safe Drinking Water Act stipulates that public water supplies participating in the UCMR program report contaminant levels to EPA if they exceed an established Minimum Reporting Level (MRL). MRLs are not health standards and usually reflect the lowest concentration that can be detected by the laboratory methods approved by the EPA. When an unregulated contaminant does not appear on this site, NYPIRG makes no claim that the contaminant is absent from water supplies. Levels below established MRLs may have significant health impacts without being detected by EPA’s approved laboratory methods. Additionally, most of New York’s water systems were not required to participate in the UCMR-3 and so no testing for these contaminants is included in the data used on this site.
  6. You can search for information on potential threats to public water supplies. Note that these represent potential threats to drinking water quality given their location and nature. This version of What’s In My Water? does not represent the totality of potential threats. When viewing the potential threats data in map form, please check-off the boxes of the threat categories you’d like to view. In some cases, the address reported to government agencies differs from the location shown on the map. This is because the map shows the physical location of the facility, and in some instances the reported address may be a business headquarters or other administrative location. The Map View shows threats in your ZIP code. However, due to limitations in the way that data is reported, your drinking water may originate from a different ZIP code, as is the case, for example, in New York City.

Glossary

Annual Water Report

Summary provided to consumers by a Public Water System on the quality of the water supplied, sometimes called Annual Water Quality Report or Consumer Confidence Report.

Aquifer

Underground layer of water-bearing rocks or materials, such as gravel, sand, or silt with the potential to supply water from wells or springs.

Consumer Confidence Reports (CCR)

A summary of the water quality supplied to consumers, sometimes called an Annual Water Report or Annual Water Quality Report.

Community Water Supply

Water supply system that serves the same number of people all year long.

Contaminant

Any substance that in a sufficient concentration is capable of producing negative health effects.

Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL)

The maximum permissible level, as defined by law, of a contaminant in drinking water which is delivered to any user of a public water system. For each regulated contaminant, the Safe Drinking Water Act requires EPA to set an MCL “as close as feasible” to the level expected to cause no adverse health impacts. MCLs are enforceable health standards under the law.

Minimum Reporting Level (MRL)

The lowest concentration of a substance that can be reliably measured by EPA’s approved analytical methods. MRLs are not health standards; they represent the level below which contaminant information is less reliable due to limitations in the instruments or testing methods being used. EPA sets an MRL for each unregulated contaminant it monitors.

Monitoring and Reporting Violation

Failure to conduct regular monitoring of drinking water quality, or to submit monitoring results in a timely fashion to the state primacy agency or EPA, as required by the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Natural Gas Pipeline

A stationary structure, either above or below the ground, which transports natural gas from a source point to a distribution point.

Natural Gas Underground Storage

Tanks and or other vessels in which natural gas is stored underground.

Petroleum Pipeline

A stationary structure that conveys petroleum products from a source point to a distribution point.

Petroleum Product Terminal

A large industrial facility where petroleum products are stored for further distribution or processing.

Power Stations

Non-residential facilities where electricity is generated.

Public Water System (PWS)

A company that supplies water to the public.

Regulated Contaminant

Contaminants for which the EPA has established Maximum Contaminant Levels to protect public health. When a regulated contaminant is found above the MCL it has to be reported to the Department of Health. Public advisories — which can cover a range of actions, such as boil before use or stop use — are issued and the Public Water Supplier is issued a violation.

Solid Waste

Any garbage, refuse or sludge resulting from industrial, commercial, residential, mining and agricultural operations. It does not include solids from domestic sewage.

Solid Waste Management Facility

A place used for the collection, storage, processing, treatment or disposal of solid wastes, including hazardous wastes.

Toxic Release Sites

An area where hazardous material has been spilled or otherwise released, polluting the area.

Toxic Release Facilities

Buildings or facilities at which toxic chemicals have been spilled.

Toxic Release Inventory (TRI)

A listing of toxic release sites and their emissions, stating the name and amounts of the chemicals released, the date, and other relevant information.

Treatment Technique Violation

A violation in the required process intended to reduce the level of a contaminant in drinking water.

Unregulated Contaminant

Contaminants that are being monitored by the EPA, but which do not have an established enforceable maximum concentration limit under law.

XXWA

This example of an abbreviation in the Public Water System data column often stands for your county’s Water Authority.

Sources of Information

Aquifers: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/36119.html
Consumer Confidence Reports: United States Environmental Protection Agency, https://www.epa.gov/ccr/ccr-information-consumers,
Fossil Fuel Infrastructure Sites (pipelines, power stations, petroleum product terminals, and underground storage facilities): US Energy Information Administration, https://www.eia.gov/opendata/bulkfiles.php
Primary Water Suppliers: New York State Department of Health, https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/water/drinking/pws_contacts/map_pws_contacts.html
Maximum Contaminant Rules: United States Environmental Protection Agency, https://search.epa.gov/epasearch/epasearch?querytext=Maximum+Contaminant+Level+(MCL)&areaname=&area
Mobile Home Parks: http://mobilehome.net/, New York State Department of Home and Community Renewal, https://data.ny.gov/api/views/sxi2-m23m/rows.pdf?accessType
Regulated and Unregulated Contaminants: United States Environmental Protection Agency, https://www.epa.gov/enviro/about-data, https://www.epa.gov/dwregdev/how-epa-regulates-drinking-water-contaminants
Solid Waste Management (SWM) Facilities: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/8495.html
Toxic Release Sites: United States Environmental Protection Agency, https://iaspub.epa.gov/triexplorer/tri_release.chemical
Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule: United States Environmental Protection Agency, https://www.epa.gov/dwucmr/occurrence-data-unregulated-contaminant-monitoring-rule
Additionally, many town and county municipal websites were visited to gather local information such as annual water reports.
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