Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus and Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Caldwell today launched the latest effort in the County’s ongoing groundwater protection strategy. The Comprehensive Well Water Testing Program will test private water wells at randomly selected single family, owner occupied homes throughout the County. This program has been designed to further the community knowledge about the quality of groundwater well sources throughout the county.
It is the most recent initiative in the County’s ongoing groundwater protection strategy. County Executive Steinhaus first announced he would direct the Department of Health to develop this newest initiative last February. This initiative follows several other ongoing groundwater protection efforts including the 2001 Steinhaus Dutchess County Safe Drinking Water Enhancement Program; more than 700 public water systems including over 1500 wells that are monitored and tested; and more than 300,000 public education mailings to county residents distributed in 2002, 2004, and 2006.
“This is yet another component in our thorough, diverse groundwater protection strategy. Our Comprehensive Countywide Private Well Water Testing Program is the result of many months of work and planning by skilled sanitarians, public health engineers, the Health Commissioner and many others. We have crafted a program to provide us with important groundwater data from throughout the county to be added to our current knowledge. We are pleased to offer this countywide, science based program at no direct personal cost to homeowners,” said County Executive Steinhaus.
In Phase One of this multi-phased program, samples of untreated well water from an initial group of volunteer private residences will be collected by a private contractor hired by the County. The samples will then be analyzed at a New York State certified laboratory for bacteria, inorganic and organic chemicals. A bid process will be used to determine the vendors.
The initial group of residences will be selected from a list of volunteer applicants. Dutchess County residents who wish to volunteer for the Comprehensive Well Water Testing Program are asked to submit an application and must be able to meet the following conditions:
- Residence must be owner-occupied;
- Residence must have its own private well;
- Residence cannot be part of an ongoing water sampling program or study; and
- Homeowner must be present when the sample is collected.
- Employees or elected officials of Dutchess County, or any municipality and their immediate families are not eligible.
Applicants can log onto http://www.dutchessny.gov/ and select the “Comprehensive Well Water Testing Program” button for more information and to complete and submit an application. Application deadline is October 5, 2007.
Volunteers who are selected for Phase One of the Comprehensive Well Water Testing Program will have the following testing done on their water sample:
- Bacteriological testing – determines if the well is vulnerable to contamination from dirt and/or sewage. Bacterial contamination of a well also is an indication that the well may be vulnerable to other types of contamination.
- Inorganic chemical analysis – determines if there is contamination from a variety of chemicals including heavy metals such as copper and lead, which may be leaching from plumbing fixtures. Inorganic chemical testing also identifies chemicals that may cause taste or odor problems and those chemicals that may interfere with the proper functioning of water treatment equipment.
- Organic chemical analysis - identifies chemicals that are associated with industry and petroleum products and also those chemicals that residents utilize in and around their homes for heating, house, lawn or car maintenance.
Water test result data will be reviewed utilizing the current standards for public water supplies known as Part 5 of the New York State Sanitary Code. Participating residents will be notified by mail of their individual test results and whether their well water meets or does not meet standards for drinking water. If a homeowner’s well water does not meet acceptable standards, the Dutchess County Department of Health will advise the homeowner of appropriate treatment options and, as currently required, will notify applicable agencies of any newly identified sources that do not meet water quality standards.
The data collected through the Comprehensive Well Water Testing Program will be used in conjunction with existing water test data to determine if there is evidence of groundwater contamination. The data will be compared with the Public Water Supply database, and information from the private test wells required by the county’s Health Department in the subdivision approval process.
This new testing program contains elements of, but goes beyond a proposal first outlined by former Fishkill Legislator and Chair of the Legislature’s Environmental Committee Shannon LaFrance and East Fishkill Legislator Mary Swartz.
The results of the well water testing program will be posted on http://www.dutchessny.gov/ website with two methods of access. One will be a listing of all test results from this county wide program. This listing will identify the address and the parcel number, but not the homeowner’s name. In addition, the results will be available through the Parcel Access application program for any parcel which has completed the test and filed the results with the County.
The following is the timeline associated with the program:
September 6, 2007:
Implementation of Phase I of the Well Water Testing Program
Public outreach begins through postcards, print and radio advertising and website information
September 28, 2007:
Mailed applications due at Department of Health
October 5, 2007:
Online enrollment ends on County website
October 31, 2007:
Well water sample collection begins at volunteer’s home site with homeowner present
Homeowners begin to receive notification of well test results from the Department of Health
and will be offered further information and assistance as needed.
December 31, 2007:
Well water sample collection ends
Department of Health to issue full report of aggregate results.
April 1, 2008:
Individual well results posted by street address on the County’s website
Phase I evaluation and Phase II design
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This new testing program is the most recent initiative in the County’s ongoing groundwater protection strategy. County Executive Steinhaus first announced he would direct the Department of Health to develop this newest initiative last February. Extensive work has already been done to protect local groundwater supply through Dutchess County’s current groundwater protection programs.
The County has set minimum acceptable requirements for the location, construction and abandonment of water wells. As part of the permit process, information is collected on the well depth, strata and quantity during the permit process, resulting in accumulated well log information on 11,000 private wells all across Dutchess County.
All subdivision plan reviews require the drilling and testing of monitoring wells to insure an adequate quantity and quality of safe drinking water. This serves to protect the drinking water quality of private homes and predated New York State regulations by 10 years. Since its inception, county government has reviewed 252 subdivisions greater than 2 lots with individual wells that require monitoring (test) wells – a total of more than 3,100 lots. Tests include bacteriological test, inorganic chemicals, organic chemicals and adequate quantity of the water supply (5 gallons per minute of water).
The Health Department has required organic testing for public water supplies for more than a decade, including testing for the gasoline additive, methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE). Treatment systems were required to be installed where needed. This proactive Dutchess regulation predated New York State requirements by three years. Similar MTBE testing recommendations were made to private wells.
Over six years ago, County Executive Steinhaus announced the creation of the Dutchess County Safe Drinking Water Enhancement Program. The program took advantage of State funding to expand the Health Department’s ability to monitor, protect and ensure the continued safety of the County’s drinking water by expanding the sampling of public water supplies including well water from ground sources, increasing the frequency of on-site inspections, identifying vulnerable sources of water, and reviewing plans for new and modified supplies. The Health Department also expanded its sampling program by encompassing more than 700 public water systems including over 1500 wells by testing for a wider range of chemical contaminants, monitoring supplies formerly outside its jurisdiction, and complete annual reviews of all systems which utilize treatment for biological disinfection, or the removal of chemical contaminants.
County Executive Steinhaus has also long been a champion of public information distribution about the importance of drinking water safety. 200,000 countywide mailings including “Safe Drinking … It’s Everyone’s Responsibility,” have been sent out to all county residents in 2002 and 2004. In 2006, another countywide mailing to 100,000 households “Safe Drinking Water, What consumers need to know & steps you take” was sent out. In addition, 10,000 mailings were sent to property owners in East Fishkill to explain the importance of having their wells tested in recognition of contamination issues in that locality.
In January this year, County Executive Steinhaus sent a letter to all 30 local governments discussing current water testing programs including the Dutchess County Safe Drinking Water Enhancement Program. The letter provided a sample template for local leaders to use should they choose to enact local town laws requiring mandatory private well water testing in their communities. To date, three towns out of the 30 local governments have chosen to enact such laws and each of the three has adopted a version of the law which they believe to be necessary and appropriate for the unique needs of their individual communities.