Paper No. 9-4
Presentation Time: 8:55 AM
ASSESSING POTENTIAL HEALTH HAZARDS OF ROADSIDE SPRINGS IN CENTRAL NEW YORK
Across the United States, developed groundwater springs adjacent to roadways are available to the public as unregulated drinking water sources. Over a four-year period, we attempted to determine the reasons that people collect water at roadside springs in Central New York State and to assess if it is safe to drink. We examined seven springs in central New York State that included a survey of 199 users and analysis of the water for some dissolved constituents and total/fecal coliform bacteria. Our results show that over 70% of respondents use the springs at least multiple times per month for drinking water and the majority collect more than five gallons per visit. Over 80% of the respondents live more than three miles away. The main reasons given for using the springs refer to a distrust of their tap water (both municipal and well) mainly based on organoleptic characteristics such as taste and smell. However, all the springs at some point tested positive for total coliform bacteria and all but one tested positive at least once for fecal coliform bacteria, meaning that 86% of the springs at some point did not meet U.S. municipal drinking water standards. None of the measured dissolved constituents exceeded drinking water standards, but nitrate levels in some springs indicate input from agricultural runoff. Most of these springs appear to be fed by shallow, unconfined aquifers that are susceptible to contamination from nearby land uses that are not readily apparent from the roadside collection locations. Overall, these unregulated and untreated springs can pose a health hazard to the people that use them.