New York weighing more monitoring standards to protect water quality
Millions of gallons of water flow daily through the Onondaga County water treatment facilities. Chemists like Brian Dristle with the Onondaga County Water Authority, or OCWA, is testing the water at multiple points in the process to monitor quality. He does weekly checks on nitrate levels, which can be harmful to humans if too high. Federal regulators require it be less than 10 parts per million.
"We're typically one part per million or less," Dristle said.
In the summertime he'll be out on Otisco Lake to sample at the source and monitor for harmful algal blooms.
The testing is part of the authority's rigorous process to monitor for dozens of contaminants mandated by multiple levels of government, and emerging threats to water supplies has a state council developing recommendations for more.
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s Lew McCaffrey said state officials keep a close watch on contaminants that could harm the region's drinking supply.
“Pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and agricultural chemicals, which we are interested in seeing whether they occur there in our water supplies, and whether they occur at levels which are above the current standards," McCaffrey said.
So far they’ve been below. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires monitoring for at least 88 contaminants while the state orders testing for up to 17 more, according to OCWA's website. Now the New York Drinking Water Quality Council is developing testing recommendations for nearly two dozen more. The group met last month to discuss adding 23 compounds of polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS — traces of the chemical often used in waterproof clothing are showing up in our soil and water.
Gary Ginsberg, the director of the state Center for Environmental Health who led the meeting, called the effort "ambitious."
The council will propose recommendations to the department of health, which will then have final say.