Drinking Water Concerns

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Public water supplies test for a variety of man-made chemicals, naturally occurring contaminants, physical characteristics and microbial pathogens. The type of testing and the frequency may be dependent upon the population served, source water type and/or public water supply type. State regulations provide a detailed list of contaminants that are tested in public water supplies. Find out more about New York's public water supply program

Environmental Chemicals and Concerns in Drinking Water

  • In 2020 New York State adopted new drinking water standards for public water systems that set maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) of for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), and 1,4-dioxane.
  • Bromate is a by-product created during certain drinking water disinfection processes. Learn more about the EPA health-protective value and who may be more sensitive to bromate in drinking water.
  • Drinking water with fluoride keeps teeth strong and reduces cavities (tooth decay) by about 25% in children and adults. By preventing cavities, community water fluoridation has been shown to save money both for families and for the US health care system. Learn more from the CDC on the safety and benefits of community water fluoridation.
  • MTBE (Oxygenates) can get into drinking water as a result of gasoline spills, improper gasoline disposal or gasoline leakage from underground storage tanks. If oxygenates are present in the soil, they can be dissolved in rainwater and carried through the soil into groundwater that is used as a drinking water source
  • NYS Health Studies – PFAS and Other Environmental Contaminants Learn more about studies New York State Department of Health (DOH) is conducting that look at exposures and health outcomes associated with per- and polyfluroralkyl substances (PFAS), metals, and many other environmental contaminants.


  • During emergencies you may need to boil water to prevent microbiological organisms from contaminating drinking water. Learn more about boil water orders for public drinking water.
  • Resources for Protecting Water Systems Information is about how to recover a private well after a flood to ensure safe drinking water.
  • Lead can enter drinking water from lead pipes or lead-based solder on water pipes. You can take steps to reduce lead in your household drinking water.
  • NYS Laws and regulations require all public-school districts and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) to test drinking water for lead contamination, and to take action if lead is above the actionable limit. You can find your school’s lead test results here.
  • Blue-green algae are microscopic organisms that can form thick blooms in surface waters. Avoid discolored water, floating blooms, and shoreline scums because can cause health symptoms in people and make animals very sick.
  • You can get Legionnaires' disease by breathing in a mist or vapor (small droplets of water in the air) containing the Legionella bacteria. Legionalla are found naturally in the environment, usually 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.
  • When salt dissolves in water, it forms sodium and chloride. Sodium and chloride occur naturally in groundwater, but levels can increase from road salt, water softeners, natural salt deposits, sewage and fertilizers. High sodium in well water can be a concern for people on low sodium diets. High chloride levels can cause plumbing corrosion problems.
  • Springs occur where underground water comes out near the ground surface. Although the water may look pure and clean, it might not be. Often it is unknown what the source of the water is, or where it has traveled before being collected. A spring might flow above ground, allowing animal waste or chemicals to run into the water.