2001 Annual Report on Public Water Supply Violations


The federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) 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 this report for calendar year 2001. The Department has also prepared this summary to give you an overview of the full report.

Overview of New York's Public Drinking Water Program

The New York State Department of Health has regulatory responsibility for the Public Water Supply Supervision 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. A central office and 46 local health departments carry out regulatory oversight of this program.

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, (C); nontransient noncommunity, (NTNC); or transient noncommunity (NC).

Community water 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 cities, towns, villages, apartment complexes, mobile home parks mobile home parks, which maintain their own drinking water system. Nontransient noncommunity systems generally serve facilities such as schools and factories. Hotels, motels and restaurants are examples of noncommunity public water systems. There are 10,186 active public water systems in New York.

Public Water Systems size by Population Number Total Population Served Ground Water Source Surface Water Source
Very Small (=<500) 8,857 923,356 8,391 466
Small (501-3,300) 918 1,171,585 650 268
Medium (3,301-10,000) 234 1,320,511 86 148
Large (10,001-100,000) 157 4,314,761 69 88
Very Large (>100,000) 20 12,203,704 6 14

Under the federal SDWA, national limits on the levels of contaminants in drinking water have been established to ensure that public drinking water is safe for people to drink. These 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 is when the water has 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. Amendments to the SDWA passed in 1996 require that all community water systems that serve 15 or more service connections used by year-round residents or regularly serve at least 25 year-round residents deliver to their customers an annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). In New York these are generally called Annual Water Quality Reports.

Annual Water Quality Reports must contain information about your water system; information on the source of your water; specifically required definitions; reporting levels of contaminants detected in the finished water; information on Cryptosoridium, radon, and other unregulated contaminants; information on any violations of the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations; and information regarding any variances or exemptions your water system may be operating under. These reports are available from your public water system.

Annual Report of Public Water Systems Violations

This report is divided into four major categories: maximum contaminant violations; treatment technique violations; variances and exemptions; and significant monitoring violations. Each of the four categories is explained in more detail below.

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 (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 a 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 to health. The exemptions currently in place in New York are primarily 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.

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, review the results of this monitoring to ensure compliance with MCLs, as well as to assure that all required monitoring is conducted.

Results of 2001 Annual Report of Public Water System Violations.

The violations in this report were extracted from the State's public water supply database Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS). SDWIS is currently on line and all violations are being reported through this federal reporting tool.

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

In 2001, 7 CWS and 2 NCWS came into compliance. Compliance schedules have been established for the remaining water 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 Amendments to the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act in 1986. The Rule requires that all sources of public water that come from surface water bodies (e.g. lake, river, stream) be filtered before 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 Level (MCL) Violations [Appendix D]

In 2001, there were a total of 243 systems that violated either monthly average or acute (one-time) microbiological standards (total coliform or E. coli). Monthly violations are generally related to total coliform violations, while acute (onetime) violations are associated with the identification of fecal coliform or E. coli, a potentially harmful bacteria. These violations are usually dealt with quickly by disinfecting the water system or the initiation of Boil Water Orders. 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 were 34 public water systems that had maximum contaminant levels violations for other than microbiological contaminants. These violations are generally due to chemical contamination. The contamination is generally mitigated through treatment or by finding another water source.

Where to Go For More Information

Information on the 2001 Public Water Supply Violations Report: If you would like to receive a hard copy of this report 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 Quality Report. The Annual Water Quality Report is designed to provide the consumer with information on the quality of the water delivered by the public water system.

Your public water system's telephone number can be found in your local telephone book.

Local Health Departments County and State District Health Departments are responsible for 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 Department of Health 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 at bpwsp@health.state.ny.us.

Appendix A Violations Table, 2001
Appendix B Listing of Local Health Departments and NYS DOH Regional and District Offices
Appendix C Listing of PWS with MCL Violations (2001), 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 2001