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Safe Drinking Water


Water Sampling Guidance

Safe Drinking Water: What consumers need to know & steps you can take (.pdf)

It's Everyone's Responsibility! The Facts You Should Know, The Steps You Can Take.

In Dutchess County, many public water supplies and private residences rely on groundwater as their sole source of drinking water. With continued population growth, groundwater supplies are increasingly vulnerable to potential contamination. Two of the most common contaminants affecting groundwater supplies in Dutchess County are coliform bacteria and organic chemicals including Methyl- tertiary-butyl-ether (MTBE), a gasoline additive.

The Dutchess County Department of Behavioral & Community Health oversees and enforces the routine monitoring of public water supplies for the following types of contamination:

  • Coliform bacteria
  • Inorganic chemicals, such as lead and copper
  • Organic chemicals, such as benzene, xylene and MTBE
  • Pesticides, such as DDT, endrin and dieldrin.

The routine monitoring of private wells, however, is the responsibility of each individual homeowner. The Dutchess County Department of Behavioral & Community Health strongly recommends that homeowners follow the steps outlined below to assess the quality of their individual water supply.

  • Determine the location of your well. If possible, find out how deep the well is and when it was constructed.
  • Identify potential sources of contamination that may impact your well (i.e. failing septic systems, old underground fuel oil tanks or poor chemical disposal practices).
  • Annually have your water supply tested for coliform bacteria at a NYS Health Department approved laboratory.
  • Monitor your water supply for changes in quality (i.e. color, odor, taste).
  • Contact the Health Department to determine if you should sample your water for other contaminants.

Water Sampling Guidance

Homeowners interested in testing their drinking water should consult with a New York State approved laboratory to obtain information regarding sampling protocols, proper sampling containers and information regarding sampling assistance. A listing of approved laboratories can be found in the local telephone directory Yellow Pages under “Laboratories” or from the Dutchess County Department of Behavioral & Community Health.

Coliform Bacteria occurs in those wells that may be contaminated with either dirt or sewage. Wells that are contaminated with coliform bacteria indicate that the water supply could contain other more harmful organisms that cause gastrointestinal illness and diarrhea.

Organic Chemicals occur in those wells that may be contaminated by leaking underground fuel tanks, gas stations, or industrial processes. Many, but not all, of these organic chemicals have a noticeable fragrant odor at low concentrations in water. The Dutchess County Health Department does not advise consuming water contaminated with organic chemicals at concentrations greater than 5 parts per billion (ppb).

MTBE is methyl-tertiary-butyl ether, a gasoline additive that dissolves very easily in water and travels rapidly and over great distances in groundwater. MTBE has a noticeable fragrant odor at low concentrations. MTBE contamination can occur from small petroleum spills (<10 gallons) as well as large spills. Spills from underground fuel tanks can also be a source of MTBE contamination. The Dutchess County Health Department does not advise consuming water contaminated with MTBE at levels greater than 10 parts per billion.

If you require further information or have questions regarding drinking water, please contact the Dutchess County Department of Behavioral & Community Health’s Environmental Health Services Division at 845-486-3404, 9AM-5PM, Monday through Friday.

Some things in life are often taken for granted but are, nevertheless, fundamental to all of us, everyday. One of these is clean, safe drinking water. No living thing can survive without water and people cannot survive in a healthy condition without good, potable water for consumption, for cooking and other routine daily uses. The water that we drink comes from many different sources. For many of us in Dutchess County that source may be our own private well in the backyard. Groundwater sources of drinking water can become contaminated with bacterial or chemical pollutants. We all have a role to play in assuring that our drinking water remains clean and safe. Our Health Department oversees and enforces the monitoring of public water supplies, but the monitoring of private wells is the responsibility of each homeowner. This pamphlet explains what the concerns are and what steps individuals can take to assess and maintain the safety of their own well water.