Protecting Drinking Water

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Drinking Water Quality Council

The Drinking Water Quality Council (DWQC) was established by New York State Public Health Law § 1113 (PHL § 1113), to provide recommendations to the New York State Department of Health on emerging contaminants in drinking water. Standing at the forefront of the State’s efforts to protect public health from threats posed by emerging contaminants, the DWQC will address some of the most technically challenging aspects of environmental health and drinking water regulation.

DWQC meetings are open to the public. A public comment session will be held at the end of the meeting. Verbal comment is limited to 2 minutes. Meetings can be viewed live via webcast. Webcasts of the meetings are posted on our web site for one year within two weeks following the meeting.

Drinking Water Source Protection Program (DWSP2)

DWSP2 is a four agency initiative co-led by the Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Health, in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and Markets and Department of State. The State will retain a consultant to work with the selected municipalities to update source water assessments and develop a protection plan. As a result of this program, participating municipalities can use their newly developed drinking water source protection plan to start implementing protection measures.

The purpose of developing a long-term protection plan for source water(s) is to protect public health and safety, and the environment. Using a drinking water source protection plan, municipalities can make informed decisions to achieve DWSP2 goals.

Septic Systems

A septic system will serve a home for a long time if it is properly located, designed, constructed and maintained. However, even the best designed and installed septic system will eventually fail without periodic maintenance. This guide briefly describes septic system components and how they should be maintained.

A septic system, also called an onsite wastewater treatment system (OWTS), is made up of a house sewer drain, septic tank, distribution box and soil absorption (leach) field.

A septic tank should be pumped out every two to three years. A septage waste transporter (septic tank pumper) that is licensed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation can inspect, measure tank layers and pump out the tank when necessary.

Filtration Avoidance Determination

Since 1993, New York City (“the City”) has met the requirements of the 1989 Surface Water Treatment Rule (SWTR) and, after 1998, the Interim Enhanced SWTR (IESWTR). This has allowed the City to avoid filtering its Catskill/Delaware water supply. The conditions that the City must meet to maintain filtration avoidance are described in the City’s Filtration Avoidance Determination (FAD).


Legionnaires' disease is caused by a type of bacteria called Legionella. The Legionella bacteria are found naturally in the environment, usually in water. The bacteria grow best in warm water, like the kind found in hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks, large plumbing systems, and decorative fountains that are not properly maintained. They do not seem to grow in car or window air-conditioners. People get Legionnaires' disease when they breathe in a mist or vapor (small droplets of water in the air) containing the bacteria.

A person diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease is not a threat to others who share office space or other areas. Legionella bacteria are not spread from one person to another person.

Blue-Green Algae

Blue-green algae are microscopic organisms that can form dense blooms in surface waters. People and animals should avoid blooms because blue-green algae can cause health effects.

It might be a blue-green algae bloom in surface water if you see strongly colored water (blue-green, green, yellow, white, brown, purple, or red), if the water has a paint-like appearance, or if you observe floating mats or scums. Always stay away from blooms in surface waters.