What’s In My Water?

NYPIRG’s New York State Drinking Water Profiles Project
2021 Update: Check out the latest water testing data and new information about water in schools and hospitals

What's In My Water?
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Clean water is essential for life, and New York’s abundant water resources are a precious natural treasure. The state has 17 watershed management units, and New York City has the largest unfiltered water supply in the country. Although the state’s water systems predominantly deliver safe water to residents, they are vulnerable to threats of contamination from an aging and crumbling infrastructure, an industrial legacy of toxic sites, and eroding public health programs.

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

We have 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:

  • Find regulated and unregulated contaminants identified in public drinking water supplies through test results, including the water systems that serve residents, schools, and hospitals
  • Understand lead and copper rule testing results
  • Find out whether or not violations were health based violations
  • Enhance your understanding of drinking water supplies and how to safeguard them

What's New

When you use our updated What’s In My Water? Search tool, you may notice water systems that you didn’t see on our site before. That is because we have added new water system types. As we explain further in our Methodology section, you will find both Community Water Systems (CWS) and Non-Transient Non-Community Water Systems (NTNCWS). You can tell which system is which with our new column for the system type. You will see either “CWS” or “NTNCWS.”
Community Water Systems are water supply systems that serve the same population year-round. If you get your drinking water in your home from a water system, it would most likely be this type of water system.
Non-Transient Non-Community Water Systems are water systems that serve the same people at least six-months of the year, but not year-round. Examples of such systems include schools, hospitals, and factories.

Using the Site

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.
Enter your ZIP Code:
Please let us know how we can make this project more informative and useful for you. For media inquiries and questions, please contact NYPIRG Environmental Policy Director Liz Moran.

A Snapshot of New York’s Water Systems

Approximately 19 million New Yorkers rely upon public water systems, be it ones that serve their homes, schools, hospitals, or places of employment (thus some people are counted twice in this population figure). In addition, 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 Fourth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, or UCMR-4) included testing for 30 unregulated contaminants between 2018 and 2020. Participation in the UCMR is required only in “large” systems serving 10,000 people or more, and in a limited sample of smaller systems. Consequently, almost 20% of New York’s population does not benefit from UCMR testing.
New York had a total of 214 water systems conduct testing for UCMR-4, which included 151 large water systems and 63 smaller water systems. These large water systems serve approximately 16 million New Yorkers, making up 80% of the state population.
Starting with UCMR-5, which will be conducted in between 2023 and 2025, testing will be mandated for all public water systems serving 3,300 or more people. Based on the water system information available as of UCMR-4, that would mean at least 313 water systems, not including any smaller systems that would be specially selected by EPA, would conduct UCMR testing moving forward.
For an analysis of UCMR-3 detections in New York, which included the chemicals PFOA, PFOS, and 1,4-dioxane, review our 2019 report, What’s In My Water.

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.

The lead and copper rule does not have a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) – instead it has an action level. 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.

Exceeding the lead and copper rule action level does not constitute a violation. Violations are determined by EPA if a system does not perform certain required actions, such as public education, lead service line replacement, etc., after the action level is exceeded.

As such, the site includes the lead and copper rule exceedance levels and makes specific notes for violations.

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 do not 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 the regulated and unregulated contaminants detected within drinking water systems in New York. 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 2021 iteration of What's In My Water was collected from December 2020 through April 2021. The information for unregulated contaminants was collected from EPA reports from 2018 to 2020, and the information for regulated contaminants is from the most recent data from EPA's Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS).

The data was collected by NYPIRG researchers Marty DeBenedictis, Ali Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth Moran, and Brenden Nance, with additional assistance from Megan Ahearn, Blair Horner, Diana Mihailovich, and Marissa Pappas.

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.

NYPIRG compiled publicly available information and makes no claim on the completeness or accuracy of this data.

Limitations
  1. The database consists of reporting from two types of Public Water Systems (PWS) – Community Water Systems (CWS) and Non-Transient Non-Community (NTNCWS) water systems. Community Water Systems provide a consistent steady flow of water to a specified area and the same population of people throughout the year. Non-transient non-community water systems are water systems that serves the same people for more than six months of the year, but not year-round (examples include schools, hospitals, factories, and colleges). This list was compiled from the EPA lists of Public Water Systems in New York.
    There is a third type of water systems that is not included in our database, Transient Non-Community water systems. These systems serve different people for more than six-months of the year. They include rest stops, parks, convenience stores, and restaurants with their own water supplies. These systems were not included in our database because they do not serve a consistent population and are not required to conduct as much testing as CWS and NTNCWS.
    More information about what is monitored in different types of water systems can be found on EPA’s website through their “Standardized Monitoring Framework: A Quick Reference Guide.”
  2. Not all water systems will show up from a ZIP Code search. NYPIRG aimed to find corresponding ZIP Codes for all water systems; however, not all water systems report a ZIP Code to EPA. As a result, not all of them will be found in our database through the ZIP Code search. If you find that this is the case, NYPIRG can still offer information for a specific water system. Contact emoran@nypirg.org for assistance.
  3. The test results you will see 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 Fourth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR-4). 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-4 and so no testing for these contaminants is included in the data used on this site.

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.

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 System (CWS)

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.

Groundwater

Water that collects in aquifers below the earth’s surface.

Health-Based Violations

Violations that include three categories: 1) exceedances of MCLs 2) exceedances of MRDLs and 3) treatment technique requirements

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.

Maximum Residual Disinfectant Levels (MRDLs)

The maximum level of a disinfectant added for water treatment that may not be exceeded without an unacceptable possibility of adverse health effects. MRDLs are enforceable standards analogous to MCLs.

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.

Non-Transient Non-Community Water System (NTNCWS)

A non-community water system that serves the same people for more than six-months of the year, but not year-round. Examples include schools, hospitals, and factories.

Public Water System (PWS)

A utility (public or private) 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.

Surface Water

A surface water source is water located above ground. It includes rivers, lakes, creeks, and reservoirs and the majority is produced by precipitation and water runoff.

Transient Non-Community Water System (TNCWS)

A public water system that provides water in a place such as a gas station or campground where people do not remain for long periods of time.

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
Primary Water Suppliers: New York State Department of Health, https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/water/drinking/pws_contacts/map_pws_contacts.htm
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
Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule: United States Environmental Protection Agency, https://www.epa.gov/dwucmr/occurrence-data-unregulated-contaminant-monitoring-rule

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