WHAT’S IN MY WATER?

NEW Features: NYPIRG’s New York State Drinking Water Profiles Project, 2018

What's In My Water?
Quick Search

Enter your ZIP Code:

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.

More Information on Lead

LEAD IN THE ENVIRONMENT
Lead is a persistent and bio-accumulative toxic metal that is a threat to public health. When consumed, even low levels of lead can have a harmful impact on almost every system and organ in the human body. There is no safe level of lead exposure for children. Even low levels of lead exposure in children have been linked to, among other consequences: damage of the nervous system; lowered IQ; learning disabilities; behavior problems; slowed growth; hearing problems; anemia; and in extreme cases ingestion of lead by young children has been linked to seizures, coma and death.
LEAD IN DRINKING WATER
Lead enters drinking water primarily through the corrosion of lead and iron pipes used to distribute water to consumers. Because lead contamination occurs en route (as opposed to at the source), lead testing is performed on samples taken at the tap. Plumbing materials vary and requirements to use “lead-free” materials have been in place since 1986, but most distribution systems include pipes installed before 1986 which present a known risk of lead leaching into the water. Accordingly, systems are required to take preventative measures that include treating water to control its corrosivity. In testing for lead, the EPA uses the “90th percentile” measurement. When more than 10% of tap samples exceed 15 parts per billion, action is required to adjust treatment techniques for greater protection.
AT NEW YORK STATE SCHOOLS
In September 2016, New York State required for the first time that public K-12 schools test their water outlets for lead and report the results to the Department of Health. Elevated lead content (above 15 parts per billion) was found at 47,900 drinking water outlets (12% of all outlets tested). 3,627 schools (82%) reported levels exceeding 15 parts per billion in at least one outlet, and 1,658 schools (37%) found elevated lead in more than 10% of the outlets they sampled – those schools would be in violation of federal health standards if evaluated in the same way as public water systems at large. Testing protocols for New York’s sampling in schools have also come into question. In July 2016, New York City officials reported that citywide testing found elevated levels of lead in only 1% of outlets. Soon after that announcement, media reports confirmed that the city had systematically flushed taps prior to collecting samples, a practice that runs contrary to EPA technical guidelines because it superficially reduces the amount of lead that will be detected. In response, the New York State Department of Health published new guidelines instructing against the practice of pre-flushing on October 4, 2016. However, over 40% of the data schools reported to DOH comes from sampling conducted before the new guidelines were issued.

Have a Private Well?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has guidelines for private well water testing. You can find comprehensive information here.
Who Should Do the Testing?
Most testing labs or services provide their own testing containers and instructions. Some may even send trained technicians to collect and analyze the sample at your home. Only use laboratories that are certified to do drinking water tests. To find a certified laboratory in your state, you can contact:
  • A state certification officer to get a list of certified water testing labs in your state
  • Your local health department, which may also test private well water for free
What Should I Test For?
Use this list of drinking water contaminants and their maximum contaminant levels (MCL) as a guide on what contaminants to test for. This helpful chart from the EPA also identifies common conditions or nearby activities that well owners should be aware of:

Conditions or Nearby Activities:

Test for:

Recurring gastro-intestinal illness

Coliform bacteria

Household plumbing or service lines that contain lead

pH, lead, copper

Radon in indoor air or region is radon rich

Radon

Corrosion of pipes, plumbing

Corrosion, pH, lead

Nearby areas of intensive agriculture

Nitrate, nitrite, pesticides, coliform bacteria

Coal or other mining operations nearby

Metals, pH, corrosion

Gas drilling operations nearby

Chloride, sodium, barium, strontium

Dump, junkyard, landfill, factory, gas station or dry-cleaning operation nearby

Volatile organic compounds, total dissolved solids, pH, sulfate, chloride, metals

Odor of gasoline or fuel oil, and near gas station or buried fuel tanks

Volatile organic compounds

Objectionable taste or smell

Hydrogen sulfide, corrosion, metals

Stained plumbing fixtures, laundry

Iron, copper, manganese

Salty taste and seawater, or a heavily salted roadway nearby

Chloride, total dissolved solids, sodium

Scaly residues, soaps don’t lather

Hardness

Rapid wear of water treatment equipment

pH, corrosion

Water softener needed to treat hardness

Manganese, iron

Water appears cloudy, frothy or colored

Color, detergents

What Should I Do if I Find an Issue?
  • Contact your public health department for specific steps.
  • You may choose to have your well retested to confirm prior test results.
  • You may want to look into home treatment or filtration systems. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a guide to drinking water treatments for household use.
  • Depending on the contaminant, its concentration, and the condition of the well, you may need a new source of water or to drill a new well. Your local public health department can help you answer those questions.
  • Contact your elected officials to see how they can help.

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 for the 2017 iteration of WIMW 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, including for brownfields, Military Fire Training Sites, and airports, was collected from January 2018 to April 2018. The information was collected from the most recent publicly available information from the DEC, the US Department of Defense (DOD), and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). 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

90th percentile measure

The highest contaminant level measured within the better 90% of all samples taken. For example, in a set of 10 total samples, the 90th percentile measure is the 9th lowest (or 2nd highest) result.

AFFF

Aqueous Film Forming Foams have been in use since the mid-1960s by the military, airports, and in other settings to extinguish petroleum fires. Fluorinated chemicals including PFOS are key ingredients of AFFF, and have contaminated water supplies near sites where AFFF is used.

AFFF-Certified Airports

Airports with regularly scheduled passenger flights are required to keep AFFF supplies on site and to use it to put out controlled fires in regular drills. Information about AFFF-Certified Airports on this site is taken from the Federal Aviation Administration’s most recent listing of airport certification status.

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.

Brownfield

A property with the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. Often, the term is used in relation to the clean-up associated with the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of the property.

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.

Federal Superfund Site

An area that has been contaminated with hazardous material deemed eligible for cleanup by the EPA due to the harmful effects these chemicals can have on human health.

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.

Military Fire Training Sites

The military has used AFFF in fire and crash trainings conducted at hundreds of sites throughout the United States. The Military Fire Training Sites shown on this website are listed in a Department of Defense inventory of sites it plans to investigate for potential contamination of groundwater and nearby water supplies.

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.

State Superfund Site

An inactive hazardous waste disposal site that poses a significant threat to public health or the environment. The sites undergo a process of investigation, evaluation, cleanup, and monitoring administered by the NYS DEC with assistance and input from the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH).

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

Airports: Federal Aviation Administration, https://www.faa.gov/airports/airport_safety/part139_cert/
Aquifers: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/36119.html
Brownfields: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, https://www.dec.ny.gov/cfmx/extapps/derexternal/index.cfm?pageid=3
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
Military Fire Training Sites: United States Department of Defense, https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2755131-List-of-military-fire-and-crash-training-sites.html
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
New York State Superfund Sites: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, https://gis.ny.gov/gisdata/inventories/details.cfm?DSID=1097
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.
What contaminants are lurking in your water?  (Times-Herald Record, August 26, 2017)
What's in your drinking water? This website finally lets NY residents know for sure  (The Daily Orange, June 23, 2017)
Find out what's in your tap water  (Times Herald-Record, June 2, 2017)
NYPIRG Unveils Water Monitoring Website  (WAMC, June 1, 2017)
What's in your drinking water?  (The Post-Standard, June 1, 2017)
Online Guide to NY Water Quality Goes Live  (Public News Service, May 31, 2017)
NYPIRG unveils interactive local water website  (Mid-Hudson News, May 31, 2017)
New York state reveals state of your water  (Victor Post, May 31, 2017)
Blair Horner discusses NYPIRG's new water profiles project on Capitol Pressroom  (WCNY, May 31, 2017)
Blair Horner discusses NYPIRG's new water profiles project on Capital Tonight  (Spectrum News, May 31, 2017)
Do you know what's in your drinking water?  (CNY Central, May 31, 2017)
NYPIRG publishes online water contaminant database  (Albany Times Union, May 30, 2017)
Interactive database and map shows what's in your water  (Auburn Citizen, May 30, 2017)
New tool lets you see how safe your water is in NY  (ABC News 10, May 30, 2017)
NYPIRG Creates Water Contamination Database  (Spectrum News, May 30, 2017)
How clean is your drinking water? Information for over 2,300 NY public water systems now online  (The Buffalo News, May 30, 2017)
Editorial: Clean water website a valuable tool  (The Daily Gazette, May 30, 2017)
New Yorkers Find Out "What's In My Water?"  (Huffington Post, May 30, 2017)
NYS Fracking Waste Loophole Depends on O'Mara, Battered GOP  (Public Education Center, October 11, 2016)
Not a time for boldness in Albany as State Legislature session winds down  (Buffalo News, June 16, 2016)
News Archive