EDITORIAL: Require testing of private wells

Homeowners with wells not protected by current law

With so many regulations and laws, it’s no wonder many of us in New York feel as if we’re living in a Nanny State.

And it’s true, New York does have a lot of laws designed to protect us.

But oddly, one significant area in which the state could be protecting us from actual harm and isn’t is in the area of water contamination in private wells.

Even though 1 million homeowners in New York get the water they drink, cook in and bathe in from private wells, the big, watchful Nanny State does nothing to ensure that that water is free from contaminants like bacteria, nitrates, heavy metals and other chemicals.

That’s a gap in the state’s health laws that could be leading to direct harm to all the people living in those homes, particularly vulnerable individuals like young children and senior citizens.

Even if you buy a home, the previous owner is under no obligation to ensure that the drinking supply for that home has been tested and deemed safe.

Two bills pending in the Legislature — both with key sponsorship in the Assembly and Senate — would help close that gap and provide genuine protection from a legitimate health threat.

The first (A1103/S1854) would require testing of drinking water from private wells upon the transfer of property. It also would set parameters for the testing of bacteria, nitrates, nitrites, sodium, iron, manganese, pH and all volatile organic compounds for which the state has established a maximum allowable level.

In counties where testing of individual wells is required, that testing would have to meet the new state standards.

After New Jersey passed a requirement for home testing in 2001, it found that one in four homes had well water that exceeded contamination standards.

The other bill (A1194/S1845) would create a public education campaign in which home inspectors, real estate agents and brokers must provide prospective buyers of property with educational materials about the potential hazards of private water supplies. 

In the event the state doesn’t pass a requirement for testing, this bill will at least ensure that home buyers are made aware of the potential hazards of private wells.

The Nanny State has been good for a lot of safety measures, everything from requiring seat belts to bike helmets.

But one danger the state doesn’t protect us from is potential contamination in private wells. Lawmakers have a chance to close that gap in our safety regulations with this common sense, reasonable, inexpensive solution.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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