2002 State of New York Public Water Supply Annual Compliance Report

Annual State Public Water Supply Compliance Report

Each year, the Department of Health prepares a report of the public water systems that had violations during the previous year to satisfy the requirement of Section 1414(c)(3) of the 1996 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act.

New York State submits data to the EPA Safe Drinking Water Information System on a quarterly basis. Data include public water supply inventory statistics, violations, and enforcement actions issued to violators. The tables in this report are based on data retrieved from Department of Health databases maintained by each of the local health departments and district offices.

What violations are included in this report?

The annual compliance report that states are required to submit to EPA provides a total annual representation of the numbers of violations for each of the four categories listed in section 1414(c)(3) of the Safe Drinking Water Act. These four categories are maximum contaminant levels, treatment techniques, variances and exemptions, and significant monitoring violations.

Maximum Contaminant Levels. The federal and state government both set limits on the level of contaminants in drinking water. These limits, called maximum contaminant levels, are established to ensure that the water is safe for people to drink. Each system is tested according to sample schedules to verify that no contaminants are above the prescribed limits. If a public water supply test result exceeds a maximum contaminant level, a violation notice will be issued.

Treatment Technique Violations. In some cases, techniques to treat the water have been established in lieu of a maximum contaminant level to control virus, some bacteria, turbidity and total organic carbon. Filtration of surface water sources, such as reservoirs, rivers and lakes is an example of a water supply treatment technique. Each system is monitored to ensure that all required treatment technologies are properly designed, installed and operated. If a system fails to follow the required treatment techniques, a violation notice will be issued.

Variances and Exemptions. Variances and exemptions to specific requirements may be granted if a public water system cannot meet maximum contaminant levels due to reasons beyond the system's control and there is no unreasonable risk to public health. The exemptions currently in place in New York were primarily granted to water systems that are 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. If a system fails to meet the conditions outlined in the variance and exemption, then a violation notice will be issued.

Significant Monitoring Violations. A public water supply is required to periodically monitor the water quality to verify that 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, 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, oversees the results of this monitoring to ensure compliance with maximum contaminant levels, as well as to ensure that all required monitoring is conducted.

How will I know if my system is in violation of drinking water requirements?

The type of consumer notification used for a violation is based upon the significance of the violation. The types of notification include Immediate Notification, Notice as Soon as Possible, Annual Notice and/or via an Annual Water Quality Report. Detailed guidance regarding public notification requirements have been provided by the Department of Health.

Immediate Notification. This notice will be given when there is an immediate threat to the public from drinking the water. This notice must be given as soon as practical but within 24 hours and can be delivered via the radio, TV, hand delivery or other method approved by the Department. An example of an immediate notification would be when a harmful bacteria has been found in the drinking water. In this case, a "Boil Water Order" would be issued to protect public health.

Notice as Soon as Possible. This notice will be given when there has been a MCL or treatment technique violation. With this type of notification, it has been determined that there is no immediate threat to public health but there may be a health concern if there is an exposure over a long period of time. This notice must be given as soon as practical but within 30 days. For community water systems, notices can be through the mail or direct delivery and for non-community water systems, notices can be accomplished through a posting, direct delivery or by mail. For all public water supplies, the Department of Health can approve acceptable alternative notification methods.

Annual Notices. Annual notices will be given within 12 months for any unresolved violations and/or for violations for monitoring or testing procedures, operation under a variance and exemption, and/or for special public notices. For community water systems, this notice can be included as part of an Annual Water Quality Report or via mail or direct delivery. For non-community public water supplies, notices can be accomplished through a posting, direct delivery or by mail. For all public water supplies, the Department of Health can approve acceptable alternative notification methods.

Annual Water Quality Report. If you receive your water from a community water system, your public water supplier provides an Annual Water Quality Report. This report must contain information on any violations of a drinking water standard that does not have a direct impact on human health and information regarding any variances or exemptions under which your water system may be operating.

Public Water Systems Included in this Report

Under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), a public water system is defined as a system that provides water via piping or other constructed conveyances for human consumption to at least 15 service connections or serves an average of at least 25 people for at least 60 days each year. There are three types of public water systems. Public water systems can be community (such as towns), non-transient non-community (such as schools or factories), or transient non-community systems (such as rest stops, parks, and stores). Only public water system types meeting the federal SDWA definition are included in this report.

The New York State Department of Health also recognizes smaller systems as public water supplies. These public water supplies are water systems with five service connections or regularly serve an average of at least 25 individuals daily at least 60 days out of the year. Smaller systems as defined by the state are not included in this report.

Violation Summary: Calendar Year 2002

A total of 3,500 systems had violations determined in calendar year 2002. Violation summaries are provided by system type and by the four violation categories (Table 1).

A high level of compliance was achieved for maximum contaminant levels in 2002, with 96 percent of systems reporting no violation. Some systems had multiple violations, accounting for the number of violations exceeding the number of systems. Community, transient non-community and non-transient non-community systems all had high rates of compliance with 97, 96 and 97 percent reporting no violations respectively.

Treatment techniques had similar high rates of compliance with 96 percent of systems reporting no violation. Community, transient non-community and non-transient non-community systems all had high rates of compliance with 97, 96 and 97 percent reporting no violations respectively.

Monitoring and reporting violations generally have lower levels of compliance with 74 percent of systems reporting no violation. Monitoring and reporting compliance rates by system type were 83 percent for community systems, 70 percent for transient non-community, and 78 percent for non-transient non-community systems.

No violations were recorded in the variances and exemptions category for calendar year 2002.

Table 1: Violations by System Type
Public Water System Type Number of Systems Violation Category
Maximum Contaminant Levels Treatment Technique Monitoring/ Reporting Variances & Exemptions
Violations Systems Violations Systems Violations Systems Violations Systems
Community 2,853 127 100 120 84 1,125 491 0 0
Transient non-community 6,586 273 241 298 267 4,216 1,966 0 0
Non-transient non-community 768 27 26 24 23 304 166 0 0
Totals 10,207 427 367 442 374 5,645 2,623 0 0

Public Water Supply Violations by County for all Federal Public Water Supply Systems: Calendar Year 2002

Violations are listed by county with public water supplies listed alphabetically within each county report. Choose the desired method to access county level reports: list of counties or interactive map.

What happens if my system has been found in violation of drinking water requirements?

The first step that is taken when a violation has been issued is to ensure that the public's health is protected. In most cases this is accomplished through public notification.

Next, the local health department will issue a notice of violation to the public water system while seeking a plan to return the system to compliance. A notice of violation is the first type of legal enforcement action issued to a system. If the system fails to comply then further action can be initiated, including formal enforcement, such as a consent order.

A summary of the type and number of enforcement actions taken in 2002 is provided in Table 2. Only those actions listing in the State's Safe Drinking Water Information System database are included in this table and may not include all enforcement actions taken in 2002. Of the 3,500 systems with violations, 2,778 returned to compliance (had no outstanding violations). Of the 722 systems that had not returned to compliance in 2002, some of these systems are under continuing legally-enforceable orders, some have had no enforcement action either taken or recorded in the state's database, and others had occurred near the end of the calendar year and are likely to return to compliance in 2004.

Table 2: Summary of Enforcement Actions for 2002
Enforcement Action Type Number of Enforcement Actions
Notices of Violation Issued 5855
Consent Orders Issued 9
Administrative Orders Issued 235
Attorney General Referral 4
Environmental Protection Agency Referral 15
Boil Water Order Issued 552
Total Number of Enforcement Actions 6670
Systems that have returned to compliance 2778

Where can I get more Information?

  1. Contact your public water system listed on your water bill or in your local telephone book. A complete list of administrative contacts for all public water systems is also available.
  2. If you receive water from a community public water system, an Annual Water Quality Report may provide the best source of information.
  3. Contact your local health department or district office of the State's Department of Health
  4. Contact the New York State Department of Health directly by calling the toll-free number (within New York State) 1 800-458-1158 or out of state at (518) 402-7650. or by email at bpwsp@health.state.ny.us 
  5. Contact the United States Environmental Protection Agency for further information at http://www.epa.gov/safewater/pws/pwss.html.