March 2020 JEH: Direct From CDC/Environmental Health Services
March 2020 Journal of Environmental Health (Volume 82, Number 7)
Creating a Comprehensive Data Set of Private Wells and Well Vulnerability in New York
Ursula Lauper, MA MPH, New York State Department of Health
Martin Zartarian, MS, New York State Department of Health
Chelsea Hogan, New York State Department of Health
Braden Savage, New York State Department of Health
David Dziewulski, PhD, New York State Department of Health
Many states struggle with the lack of data on water sources and drinking water systems that are not regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). In the U.S., most unregulated systems are private wells. While New York regulations provide additional coverage for non-SDWA regulated wells with 5–14 service connections and fewer than 25 users, an estimated 1 million sites serving approximately 4 million residents across the state rely on unregulated private wells for their potable water. Systems not regulated by SDWA do not have consistent operation, monitoring, or reporting requirements and have not been thoroughly evaluated for their potential to contribute to the occurrence of waterborne disease. There is currently an information gap among private well users about possible harmful exposures or hazards, vulnerabilities of the water sources to contamination, treatment, and assessment of health outcomes.
Considering these issues and with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Safe Water for Community Health (Safe WATCH) Program, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) set about to create a more comprehensive private well data set that includes relevant, colocated vulnerabilities. This month’s column explores how NYSDOH created a comprehensive data set of private wells and well vulnerabilities, as well as how this information has been used and any future updates.