The City of Ithaca published its annual drinking water quality report last week, showing the status of the city's water supply over the last year, which, generally, seemed quite healthy.
Tompkins County’s sources of drinking water, including tap and bottled water, consists of rivers, lakes, streams, ponds, reservoirs, springs, and groundwater. While the water travels over the surface of the land or through the ground, it dissolves naturally occurring minerals and, in some cases radioactive contaminants.
Other substances it can pick up are from the presence of animals or humans. The State of New York and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provide guidelines for the limit of contaminants in water to ensure it is safe to drink. The State Health Department and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) regulate those limits for bottled water.
Following changes to the treatment process in 2016, the Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD) required the City of Ithaca to restart sampling for the Lead and Copper Rule. The City met the requirements and, in 2018, collected 34 samples from homes with known lead and service lines.
Three samples were above the action level (AL) of 15 micrograms per liter (ug/L). The action level was not an exceedance because the lead concentration was not greater than 15ug/L in more than ten percent, the 90th percentile, of the water samples during the monitoring period. One sample site tested was above the action level of 1.3 milligrams per liter (mg/L) for copper. More testing will take place in June 2019.
On average, the City of Ithaca’s sodium level for 2018 was 30 mg/l, with level consistently higher than 20mg/l, which is dangerous for people on a strict sodium diet. Concerning the nuisance chemical, manganese, which may create aesthetic, cosmetic or technical problems, is not regulated by the EPA. A secondary standard of 0.05 mg/L was created to minimize those problems. In 2018, there were no issues reported for manganese.
The City of Ithaca did pick up a monitoring violation in early November when it ran out of nitrogen gas, which is used in testing for chlorite in drinking water. It gained another violation the next day again, since there was still no gas and more couldn’t be picked up until the weekend ended. The city is required to notify the public about that violation, which fell into the Tier 3 category, annually and thus the report serves as that notification.
The report lists that the biggest projects for 2019 will include bidding the dam safety project and preparing for the upcoming work, as well as starting the initial parts of the dredging project in the southwest part of town.