Public Water Supply Protection - (845) 364-2595
Access to clean and safe water, both for consumption and to facilitate adequate sanitation and hygiene, is critical to sustaining human health and life. As a result of strict federal and state water quality standards and a very high level of regulatory oversight to ensure those standards are met, Rockland County, along with most of the United States, is fortunate to have one of the safest public water supply systems in the world. Our public water suppliers also provide water for fire protection and commercial uses. Thus, maintaining a safe and adequate supply of water is of utmost importance to protect the health and safety of county residents, and also to support Rockland's economy.
Whether we consider surface water or ground water, our water resources derive primarily from within the political and physiographic boundaries of Rockland County, a feature that presents both limitations in the resources available, and benefits to our ability to protect and manage those resources. Our Public Water Supply Protection program represents one of several interrelated efforts to ensure ongoing comprehensive protection of Rockland's water resources. This program represents substantial "behind-the-scenes" work that results in an extremely safe network of public water supplies, and that is ultimately responsible for the rarity of water-borne illnesses in Rockland County.
The Department of Health's Public Water Supply Protection program has two fundamental goals:
- Ensure the availability of an adequate quantity of water for domestic, commercial, and fire-protection purposes, and
- Ensure that the quality of water available is safe for its intended use.
Many functions carried out by program staff are mandated by New York State public health law, including both our provision of technical assistance, and our enforcement of federal and state laws and regulations that govern the operation of public water supplies. These mandates are established in the New York State Sanitary Code, 10 NYCRR § 5 - Drinking Water Supplies, and in New York State Realty Subdivision Law, Article 11, Title II of the Public Health Law. Technical assistance is offered not only to help our public water suppliers achieve and maintain compliance with regulations, but also to help them provide the best possible service to Rockland residents.
Article II of the Rockland County Sanitary Code also contains regulations complementary to those of New York State that facilitate enhanced protection of fundamental water resources, i.e., our lakes, streams and ground water reserves, as well as the ultimate quality of water delivered to Rockland residents. Article V allows Department of Health staff to implement water-use restrictions to reduce the demand for water when drought conditions jeopardize an adequate supply. These mandatory restrictions on discretionary water use can be employed in a graduated manner, depending upon the severity of the drought, but are ultimately focused upon maintaining the availability of water for consumption and adequate sanitation and hygiene.
Our program staff serve as local agents of the New York State Department of Health to ensure that our public water suppliers maintain the necessary equipment and resources, and operate their systems properly, to consistently provide safe and adequate service to our residents. In this capacity, we conduct routine ongoing surveillance activities, including but not limited to: sampling and analysis of water from sources and distribution systems; inspection of public water supply facilities; conduct of on-site practical examinations and review of water supply operator certifications; review of plans for additions or modifications to public water supply systems; tracking of water supply interruptions to ensure appropriate remedial action and notification; and investigation of complaints. Realty Subdivision Law further requires that we confirm that available resources constitute a safe and adequate water supply before approving any new subdivisions or expansion of existing water supply systems.
We are also actively involved in collaboration with other state and federal agencies, e.g., New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State Department of Public Service, and United States Geological Survey regarding programs and research that can have an impact on our water supply resources. Such local cooperation with these agencies is important to ensure that state and federal research and decisions are supported by an accurate understanding of local issues and that the best interests of Rockland residents are adequately represented.
Since the entire hydrologic system is naturally interconnected, with ground water reserves linked to surface water in lakes and streams, protection and management of those resources requires a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach. Related Department of Health programs include, the Permitting of Well Construction, Permitting of Well Maintenance, Residential Well Testing, Petroleum Bulk Storage and Rockland County Private Well Testing (PWT) Law.
Well Permitting Program - (845) 364-2595
Improper construction, operation, maintenance or decommissioning of wells and improper installation of well pumps and pumping equipment represent a potential endangerment of water resources, and a potential hazard to public health and safety. The entire hydrologic system is interconnected: underground water reserves, called aquifers, are linked to the surface water in lakes and streams. So contamination or other environmental damage caused by a single well can potentially have a wide-spread impact on water resources. For this reason, the Rockland County Department of Health requires that well construction and maintenance activities be performed under permit, and in compliance with Article II of the Rockland County Sanitary Code.
The Rockland County Department of Health is mandated under Part 5 of the New York State Sanitary Code, 10 NYCRR § 5 - Drinking Water Supplies, to provide technical assistance to residents regarding their drinking water wells, and to require that new water supply wells are constructed pursuant to the requirements contained within Appendix 5-B of that regulation. Our permitting program provides the mechanism that allows our staff to ensure that water supply wells, as well as resource evaluation and geothermal wells, are properly constructed, and that unused or poorly-maintained wells are properly decommissioned, in accordance with state and local requirements. Adherence to these construction standards helps to ensure that water supply wells will consistently yield the best water quality available, and that all wells remain protective of Rockland County's limited ground water resource. These services must be performed by a registered well contractor.
Applications are available to download:
- Application to Construct a Water Supply Well
- Application to Construct a Resource Evaluation Well
- Application to Construct a Geothermal Well
- Application for Well Maintenance
- Application to Decommission a Well
- Application for Well Contractor Registration
Residential Well Testing - (845) 364-2595
Despite our best efforts to protect Rockland's water resources, the quality of ground water delivered by individual wells can change over time. Such changes may result from contamination of the aquifer by accidental releases of petroleum or other chemical products into the environment, from discharges from failing or poorly-functioning septic systems, or even from natural surface water, i.e., lakes or streams, having a direct connection with the well.
A properly constructed well in good condition (as required pursuant to Rockland's Well Permitting Program) can help to exclude some of these contaminants, particularly those that are present relatively near the ground surface. For example, bacteriological contamination usually results from surface water or water from a septic system making its way into a well too quickly. When a well is properly sited, and the casing is deep enough, in good condition, properly capped, and properly sealed into the rock, surface water is forced to percolate gradually through the surrounding soil and rock layers before reaching the aquifer and eventually making it to a well. This allows time for potentially harmful bacteria to die or be consumed by organisms that naturally reside in the soils. In some cases, even if a well was properly sited and constructed, degradation of water quality can result from failure of the well itself as the casing or grout materials degrade with age.
The only way to know if well water is safe is to test it, since even dangerous levels of many contaminants result in no noticeable change in taste or odor. We recommend that homeowners initially test their well for a wide range of constituents (e.g., those required pursuant to the Private Well Testing Law). Our staff can assist with interpretation of the results of such testing, and help determine whether additional or follow up testing is warranted. We also recommend that all residential wells be tested annually for bacteriological contaminants, by far the most common found in residential wells. If warranted, we can then assist homeowners with proper procedures for disinfecting their well and plumbing system, and if necessary with making arrangements for installation of a permanent disinfection system in their household plumbing.
The Rockland County Department of Health maintains a contract with a local laboratory to provide limited analytical services for residential well owners. Our staff can come to your home, collect a sample for bacteriological, copper or lead analyses, and assist you with any necessary follow up actions. We can also assist private well owners with understanding their options for using commercial laboratories that can perform more comprehensive analyses.
Well Testing Links: