The New York Public Interest Research Group has opened an online database giving residents a shortcut to accessing federal and state test results for contaminants in drinking water.
Megan Ahearn, the “What’s In My Water?” NYPIRG Program Director, says about a year ago, the organization undertook a project to build a new website to serve the public. "Water is essential for life. It's one of our most precious resources, and, as we saw in Hoosick Falls, and in Newburgh and in other places around the country, access to safe, clean drinking water is not always a guarantee. Sometimes government monitoring and reporting either doesn't get to people, the information, or is buried in really dense reports. We thought that New Yorkers deserved better and deserved more clear access to information about their drinking water."
PFOA, the industrial chemical component in Teflon, has been linked to several forms of cancer. Prominent headlines focusing on PFOA appearing in water supplies prompted several municipalities to test their own. In March 2016, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan released results of tests done by the city water department at the Alcove Reservoir, the city’s source of drinking water. The results demonstrated no detectable levels of PFOAs. A couple months later, Cohoes residents received reassuring news from Mayor Shawn Morse: “It’s always good to let people know that the water we have in Cohoes is safe to drink and there will be no concerns for them or their families’ health.”
By mid-May of 2016, New York state had installed more than 800 point-of-entry treatment systems on private wells to remove PFOA from contaminated groundwater. A permanent filtration system is in place on the Hoosick Falls municipal water supply, paid for by company Saint-Gobain, under consent-order from the state, which has declared Hoosick Falls a Superfund site.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Commissioner Basil Seggos told WAMC the state continues to push for a clean water source. "We want to see a long-term solution to this where we’re providing clean water uncontaminated with PFOA to the village. But certainly, in the interim, we’re making sure this treatment system is 100 percent effective.”
There's more to be concerned about than just chemical contaminants. Critics warn bottled water can be bad for our wallets, our health and the environment. As more people make the move to tap water, there's increasing curiosity over local water quality. That’s where NYPIRG wants to step in. Again, Megan Ahearn. "We would just suggest that people share this with their neighbors and their family and their friends. Go to nypirg-dot-org slash whatsinmywater."
Users can input any ZIP code to see a map of potential threats in that area.
For example, if you type in the 12090 zip for Hoosick Falls, the website displays a link to a map along with a table of contaminants and a Toxics Release Inventory.
The map itself shows aquifers, locations of Superfund sites, power stations, natural gas pipelines and underground storage facilities, petroleum pipelines and product terminals as well as toxic-release sites.