Community Water System (CWS) Emergencies: Water Supplier's Responsibilities and Procedures

This fact sheet was prepared to help CWS operators understand their responsibilities during CWS emergencies and potential public health hazards as well as define procedures to effectively coordinate communications and response. CWSs are responsible for delivering safe and adequate water to its customers. This includes identifying and assessing water system emergencies and potential public health hazards and implementing rapid, effective resolution to these events.

The Local Health Department (county or state district office) is responsible to work with CWS operators to ensure emergencies and hazards are properly addressed in a timely manner. CWS' responsibilities include immediate notifications to the Local Health Department (LHD) and may also require timely public notifications. Water suppliers must post emergency contact information and all emergencies and potential public health hazards must be brought to the attention of the LHD, immediately.

Water suppliers should assess their critical assets and develop emergency response plans with an emergency contact list to notify sensitive customers and request available resources. Names and contact information of all hospitals, critical medical facilities, schools, and DOH regulated facilities must be included in the contact list and, if affected by water supply emergencies, be brought to the LHD's attention immediately.

Responsibilities and Procedures

  1. Notify the LHD immediately, via telephone, for any emergency or public health hazard as defined in Subdivision 5-1.1(aw) of the State Sanitary Code. Incidents that warrant notification may include, but are not limited to:
    • watermain break
    • positive bacteriological result or MCL exceedance
    • toxic chemicals, hazardous materials, or oil product spills that may threaten the water supply
    • suspected or confirmed water borne disease outbreak
    • loss of water supply source or request to change to an emergency source
    • inadequate disinfection
    • stoppage or alteration of treatment process
    • distribution system contamination resulting from a treatment failure, power outage, back flow event or waterline break
    • disruption of water service
    • written or verbal threat against the water system
    • intrusion or security breach when access to water supply, chemical supplies, or key operating controls may have been achieved
    • any request for emergency water supply equipment from the State Office of Emergency Management (SOEM)
  2. Work with the LHD to identify necessary and appropriate response actions. Seek LHD approval to use an emergency water source or to alter disinfection or other treatment process. Notify LHD of any situational changes until emergency has been terminated.
  3. Contact the County Emergency Management Director, and local law enforcement, when appropriate.
  4. Complete necessary documentation for release of emergency water supply equipment from the State Office of Emergency Management (SOEM, formerly SEMO) equipment stockpile. Arrange for pick up of emergency water supply stockpile equipment. Properly disinfect emergency stockpile water supply equipment before and after use, return equipment to the SOEM stockpile, and note any problems experienced with the stockpile equipment. SOEM does not pick up or deliver stockpile equipment. CWS is responsible for the operation of SOEM equipment.
  5. Notify LHD when conditions causing the emergency or public health hazard have terminated. Submit a report to the LHD documenting: the cause and scope of the emergency; responses taken; and the use of any SOEM equipment.

For questions concerning this Fact Sheet and the contact information to be provided, please contact your local health department.

A New York State Department of Health Duty Officer is available 24-hours a day by calling (866) 881-2809.