Jaffee’s “Private Well Testing Act” Passes Assembly

April 15, 2008

Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) announced Assembly passage of legislation she authored enacting the “Private Well Testing Act,” (A.7231) which would mandate the testing of drinking water from private wells upon the sale or transfer of property, prior to the connection of a new well, and every five years for multi-family rental properties. Currently, no such testing is required.

The legislation would mandate a comprehensive battery of tests, similar to those required for public water supplies, including tests for bacteria (total coliform), nitrates, iron, manganese, pH, lead, all volatile organic compounds for which a maximum contaminant level has already been established, and a 48-hour gross alpha test for radium.

“This legislation protects children, mothers, fathers, and grandparents who drink from these wells,” said Jaffee. “People who get their water from private wells should be as aware of what’s in their water as those who drink from the public supply, and right now, there is no requirement for having private wells tested – ever. People could be drinking contaminated water and never know about it.”

After passage of a similar law in New Jersey in 2001, it was discovered that one in four private drinking wells was contaminated above state drinking water standards. As a Rockland County legislator, Assemblywoman Jaffee authored similar legislation, which was passed in 2005. Since its passage, 63-66% of wells in Rockland County tested either a primary or secondary failure. It is estimated that over 1 million homeowners in New York State currently use private wells for their drinking water.

“All too often contamination can be present and unnoticed for years, impacting the health of residents without their knowledge,” said Jaffee. “The well testing law is an important way of protecting the health of the public and the home buyer.”

The legislation would require that the test results be reported to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for inclusion in the DEC’s geographic information system created to track contaminated sites and water segments, as well as the local health department.

In addition, the DEC and the New York State Department of Health are required to develop a public education program to inform the public of the requirements of the law, the potential health effects of consuming contaminated water, the importance of having wells tested regularly, and suggested water treatment techniques, equipment strategies, and possible public funding sources.

State Senator Thomas Morahan is sponsoring this legislation in the New York State Senate.