1998 Annual Report on Public Water Supply Violations

Introduction

The Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1996 requires that annually each state prepare a report of the public water systems that have had violations over the past year. The New York State Department of Health has prepared the report for calendar year 1998. The Department has also prepared this summary to give you an overview of the full report. In July 2000, the State Department of Health will post the violations report for calendar year 1999.

Overview of New York's Public Drinking Water Program

The New York State Department of Health has regulatory responsibility for overseeing the Public Water Supply Program in New York State. This responsibility entails overseeing the delivery of public drinking water to ensure that it is suitable for people to drink. Regulatory oversight of these systems is carried out by a central office and 46 local health departments.

In New York, a public water system is defined as a water system that provides piped water to the public for people to drink. The system must also have at least 5 service connections or regularly serve an average of at least 25 people daily for at least 60 days a year. Public water systems are categorized as one of the following types of systems: community, nontransient noncommunity or noncommunity. Examples of community systems are towns, villages and cities. Nontransient noncommunity systems generally serve facilities such as schools and factories. Hotels, motels and restaurants are examples of noncommunity public water systems. There are 10,620 public water systems in New York.

Under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act and its amendments, national limits on the levels of contaminants in drinking water have been established to ensure the public drinking water is safe for people to drink. In New York State, drinking water standards are known as maximum contaminant levels, also called MCLs. For some regulations the water is treated to control unacceptable levels of contamination in the water, rather than applying a maximum contaminant level, these are called treatment techniques. A good example of this case is when the water has a great deal of turbidity; the water is treated rather than tested for a maximum contaminant level. Regulations have been developed regarding how often public water systems must monitor their water quality and report the results of those tests to the State. Generally, the larger the population served by a public water system, the more frequently the system must monitor and report results to the State. Water suppliers are required to notify the public when they have violated any of these regulations. In addition, the 1996 amendments to the federal Safe Drinking Water Act require some water systems to monitor for contaminants that are not regulated. This data will be used for future regulatory development.

Annual Report of Public Water Systems Violations

The report has four major categories: maximum contaminant violations; treatment technique violations; variances and exemptions; and significant monitoring violations. Below, each of the four categories and how the New York State Department of Health works with water suppliers on those issues are explained in more detail.

Maximum Contaminant Levels.The federal and state government has set limits on the level of contaminants in drinking water. These limits, called maximum contaminant levels (also known as MCLs), are established to ensure that the water is safe for people to drink. The Department reviews each system to ensure that no contaminants are above the prescribed limits.

Treatment Technique Violations. In some cases, techniques to treat the water have been established instead of a maximum contaminant level. Filtration of surface water sources, such as reservoirs, rivers and lakes is an example of water supply treatment technique. The Department reviews each system to assure that all required treatment technologies are properly designed, installed and operated.

Variances and Exemptions. Variances and exemptions to specific requirements may be granted if a public water system cannot meet a maximum contaminant level due to reasons beyond the system's control and there is no unreasonable risk that the water quality will be impacted. No variances have been issued in New York in 1998. The only exemptions in place are to systems in the process of complying with the requirements of the Surface Water Treatment Rule. Each of these exemptions includes a schedule to bring the system into full compliance.

Significant Monitoring Violations. A public water system is required to periodically monitor the water quality to verify that the maximum contaminant levels (see above definition of maximum contaminant levels) are not being exceeded. If a public water supply fails to take the required tests and/or fails to report the results of the tests to the Department then a monitoring violation has occurred. There are two types of monitoring violations. A major violation is when no tests were taken and/or no test results were submitted to the Department. A minor violation is when some, but not all, of the required samples are collected and/or submitted. The Department, in cooperation with local health departments, reviews the results of this monitoring to ensure compliance with MCLs, as well as to assure that all required monitoring be conducted.

Results of 1998 Annual Report of Public Water System Violations.

The three areas of the report that may be of greatest interest to most consumers are:

  1. Public Water Systems with a Failure to Filter [Appendix F]
  2. Public Water Systems with Microbiological Maximum Contaminant Violations (MCL) [Appendix D]
  3. Public Water Systems with Maximum Contaminant Violations (MCL) - Excluding Microbiological Contamination [Appendix C]

Public Water Systems with a Failure to Filter [Appendix F]

In 1998, five systems came into compliance. Compliance schedules have been established for the remaining forty-eight systems. Systems that are listed in this Appendix are often out of compliance due to the Surface Water Treatment Rule. The rule went into effect in 1993, and is a product of the 1986 Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments. The Rule requires that all sources of public water that come from surface water bodies (e.g. lake, river, stream) and fall within certain criteria must filter the water before it is delivered to the public. For many systems coming into compliance with the Surface Water Treatment Rule requires completion of a major long term project, such as construction of a water filtration plant. In the interim, systems must provide increased disinfection to assure the safety of their supply.

Public Water Systems with Microbiological Maximum Contaminant Violations (MCL) [Appendix D]

In 1998, there are a total of 61 systems that had monthly violations and 32 systems with acute (one-time) violations. Monthly violations are related to problems in routine water quality monitoring while acute (one time) violations are those associated with the identification of fecal coliform or E. coli, potentially harmful bacteria, in a water supply. These violations are usually dealt with quickly by disinfecting of the water system. Disinfection kills microorganisms. Public water systems with this type of violation need to be on a regular disinfection program.

Public Water Systems with Maximum Contaminant Violations (MCL) - Excluding Microbiological Contamination [Appendix C]

There are 17 public water systems that had maximum contaminant levels violations, excluding microbiological contamination. These violations are mainly chemical primarily small systems. The contamination is generally mitigated through treatment or by finding another water source.

Where to Go For More Information

Information on the 1998 Public Water Supply Violations Report

If you would like to receive a hard copy you can contact your local health department or the New York State Department of Health. Information on how to contact both is provided below.

Information on Public Water Supply Systems

Public Water Systems: Ask your water supplier for a copy of the system's Annual Water Supply Statement. The Annual Water Supply Statement is designed to provide the consumer with information on the quality of the water delivered by the public water system. Public water systems with over 1,000 connections are required to prepare this statement for their customers. Starting in October 1999, all community water systems will also be required to prepare these statements, which will be called Consumer Confidence Reports. (Community systems are defined as those public water systems with at least 5 service connections used by year-round residents or at least 25 year-round residents. Examples include mobile home parks and private water companies). Your public water system telephone number can be found in your local telephone book.

Local Health Departments

County and District Health Departments have direct regulatory oversight of public water systems in their county or district. The local health departments' addresses and numbers are in Appendix B. In addition, you can find the telephone number of your local health department in your local telephone book.

New York State Department of Health

The State Health Department provides general regulatory oversight of public water systems on a statewide basis. The Department can provide consumers with general information about how public water systems are regulated. You can contact the Department by calling the toll-free number (within New York State) 1 800-458-1158 or out of state at (518) 402-7650. We can also receive email by bpwsp@health.state.ny.us.

Appendices

Appendix A Violations Table, 1998
Appendix B Listing of Local Health Department's and Local Health Districts
Appendix C Listing of PWS and MCL Violations (1998), Exclusive of Microbiological
Appendix D Listing of PWS with Microbiological MCL Violations
Appendix E Listing of PWS with Treatment Technique Violations, Filtration Related
Appendix F Listing of PWS with Failure to Filter Violations
Appendix G Listing of PWS with Lead and Copper Rule Violations
Appendix H Listing of PWS with Exemptions in Effect During 1998