Monday, December 22, 2014

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Southern Tier

Drinking water standard violated

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Drinking water standard violated
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Syracuse and New York City are the only two places in New York State that don't filter their drinking water. That means extra precautions must be taken to protect their drinking source. Our Katie Gibas shows us how one windy day can impact what comes out of your faucet.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Thousands of notices went out to people who get their water from Skaneateles Lake. In Syracuse, Skaneateles, Jordan and Elbridge, a drinking water standard called turbidity was violated.

"The regulations mandate that we notify the public of a potential turbidity event within 30 days," said Eric Murdock, the Syracuse Water Department Chief Engineer.

Turbidity is how cloudy the water is. Chalk, dirt and algae can all affect it. On December 21st, 2012, a wind storm stirred up Skaneateles Lake, causing it to be nearly four times the legal limit.

"In the event of heavy rains for three or four days where there's severe weather conditions and heavy runoff and the runoff throughout the watershed could collect contaminants and bring those contaminants into the lake," said Murdock.

In some cases, it could become a health hazard, causing nausea, cramps, diarrhea and headaches.

"The concern would be if bacteria are harbored in those particles. If it was runoff from a farm that spread manure for example or if it was untreated sewage," said John Hassett, a chemistry professor at SUNY ESF.

But city water officials say that wasn't the case this time, which is why a more immediate notice wasn't sent out.

"The water department has a full time staff who's monitoring the turbidity readings as they're coming in. And we're in close communication with the health department. There's no lag in communication between us," said Murdock.

The water from Skaneateles comes through 17 gate houses like this one and if the city finds that the water source at Skaneateles is very cloudy and things are moving around, they're actually able to limit the amount of water that's coming in or completely shut it off.

The final filtration step is at the reservoirs where the water is held until anything making the water cloudy sinks to the bottom, making sure what's heading to your tap is clean.

Syracuse again doesn't have a formal filtration process. Chlorine is added to clean the water.

Below is a copy of the notice that went out to residents. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP