2011 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.

New York State versus Federal Violations. The data presented in this report may differ from that in EPA's compliance report due to the time difference between when the information in our State database is uploaded to the EPA federal database and when EPA analyzes the information for their report. In addition, EPA has primary enforcement authority until the State receives primacy for each new rule. In some instances, EPA issues violations and the associated enforcement actions to water systems in New York State. Those violations would be stored in the federal database only and is not included in the data for this report.

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 Notice" 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 2011

A total of 3,601 systems had violations determined in calendar year 2011, a 9% decrease from 2010. 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 2011, with 97 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 96, 98 and 95 percent reporting no violations respectively.

Water systems had a similar high rate of compliance with treatment requirements. Ninety-eight percent of systems reported no treatment technique violation. Community, transient non-community and non-transient non-community systems all had high rates of compliance with 97, 99 and 98 percent reporting no violations respectively.

Monitoring and reporting violations generally have lower levels of compliance with 64 percent of systems reporting no violation. Monitoring and reporting compliance rates by system type were 76 percent for community systems, 57 percent for transient non-community, and 78 percent for non-transient non-community systems.

Public Water System Type Number of Systems Table 1: Violations by System Type
Violation Category
Maximum Contaminant Levels Treatment Technique Monitoring & Reporting Variances & Exemptions
Violations Systems Violations Systems Violations Systems Violations Systems
Community 2,442 245 107 113 84 1,000 574 0 0
Transient non-community 5,697 170 124 49 49 4,638 2,456 0 0
Non-transient non-community 744 80 34 14 13 288 160 0 0
Totals 8,883 495 265 176 146 5,926 3,190 0 0

In comparison to the statistics reported for 2010, the number of systems cited for MCL violations was lower (265 versus 284), and the number of violations cited at these systems increased (495 versus 480). The number of systems with treatment techniques violations increased in 2011 (146 versus 142) and the number of voilations increased (176 versus 154). The number of systems with monitoring and reporting violations decreased for 2011 (3,190 versus 3,541) and the number of violations decreased (5,926 versus 6,435).

Public Water Supply Violations by County for all Federal Public Water Supply Systems: Calendar Year 2011

Violations are listed by county with public water supplies listed alphabetically within each county report. Not all violations attributed to calendar year 2011 may be included in this report. Some violations may not be determined until after the data for this report were analyzed and some violations may not have been entered in time for inclusion in this report. All county and district offices are required to submit violation data within 30 days of its determination. Measures of timeliness of submission indicate that approximately 95% of violation data are submitted within 180 days, corresponding to the timeframe for this annual report.

Find public water system violations within New York State by choosing from a list of counties or interactive map.

How can I tell how long my water system was in violation of drinking water requirements?

Consumers may want to know the duration of a drinking water requirement violation. Information contained in these documents may specifically identify the duration of a violation or may more generally identify the regulatory compliance period within which the violation occurred. Violations are recorded by two period types, "violation period", and "compliance period." Violation periods end as soon as action to mitigate the violation is taken and have specific begin and end dates. A compliance period spans finite periods of time based on established requirements for compliance. Compliance periods are often expressed in months, calendar quarters, or years.

For example, should disinfection fail, the violation period starts when no disinfectant is detected and ends when disinfectant is again detected. However, with a compliance period, a fixed interval of time exists where the water system is in violation, regardless whether actions were taken to mitigate the condition. An example of this is a nitrate maximum contaminant level exceedance. The nitrate exceedance would report as a violation with a compliance period of one year, even if the exceedance may have only lasted 24 hours. There are certain violations that, due to Federal Reporting standards, can only be reported by Compliance Period despite the fact they can be resolved immediately. Furthermore, a compliance period can span years resulting in a water system appearing to be out of compliance for a considerable length of time. Consumers are encouraged to contact their water systems for more specific information regarding individual violations or refer to their annual water quality report if the information provided here does not provide a specific time period of violation.

Which public water systems account for most of the violations of drinking water requirements?

Not surprisingly, a small number of public water systems account for a disproportionately large number of violations. Very few systems have multiple violations of public health hazards. Most systems with multiple violations fail to meet monitoring requirements which provide the first barrier in detecting where problems occur. Those systems with more than ten violations account for less than one percent of public water systems, yet are responsible for six percent of all violations in 2011.

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 by the water system.

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 2011 is provided in Table 2. Although all violations are required to be reported in the state's data system, it is possible that additional enforcement actions have been taken but are not within the official database.

Table 2: Summary of Enforcement Actions for 2011
Enforcement Action Type Number of Enforcement Actions
Notices of Violation Issued 8,513
Consent Orders Issued 0
Administrative Orders Issued 202
Attorney General Referral 0
Environmental Protection Agency Referral 0
Boil Water Order 750
Total Number of Enforcement Actions 9,465

There are several other types of enforcement actions that can be taken as well. Given the various actions taken, the enforcement status of each violation was determined and is summarized in Table 3.

Public Water System Type Table 3: Summary of Enforcement Status for 2011
Violation Category
Maximum Contaminant Levels Treatment Technique Monitoring & Reporting Variance & Exemption
No longer in violation Corrective action taken No Action No longer in violation Corrective action taken No Action No longer in violation Corrective action taken No Action No longer in violation Corrective action taken No Action
Community 108 135 2 85 27 1 616 371 13 0 0 0
Transient non-community 124 44 2 38 11 0 3,528 1,103 7 0 0 0
Non-transient non-community 42 34 4 13 1 0 194 93 1 0 0 0
Totals 274 213 8 136 39 1 4,338 1,567 21 0 0 0

Of the 6,597 violations cited in 2011, 84 percent were considered resolved (no longer in violation) and 23 percent had some corrective action taken. Violations where no action was taken represent less than 1 percent of all the violations during 2011 and may have occurred near the end of the calendar year and are likely to return to compliance in 2012.

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.