Northeastern Section - 56th Annual Meeting - 2021

Paper No. 21-3
Presentation Time: 4:10 PM


SINTON, Christopher, OLIVIERI, Matthew, PERRY, Tara and STODDARD, Katherine, Env Studies and Sciences, Ithaca College, 953 Danby Rd, Ithaca, NY 14850

Across the United States, roadside springs have been developed from nearby natural springs for easy water collection. According to an online roadside springs site resource, there are at least 60 such springs in New York State and, anecdotally, the popularity of some of these springs is high based on the common sight of people filling up multiple containers. The ownership (and responsibility) of these springs is nebulous and there is little information about their water quality. In order to address two basic questions about roadside springs: 1) why do people use the springs; and 2) is the water safe to drink, we initiated a study in 2015 to conduct a preliminary survey and to test for common anions and total coliform, fecal coliform, and e. coli bacteria at seven springs in central New York State. The survey of water users showed that over 70% of respondents use the springs multiple times per month for drinking water and the majority collect more than five gallons per visit. Many respondents use the water because they felt the taste was better than the water available at their homes. All the springs at some point tested positive for total coliform bacteria, all but one tested positive for fecal coliform bacteria, and two tested positive for e. coli. One spring (one of the most popular) tested positive for bacteria, including fecal coliform, over 50% of the time. This spring had the highest nitrate (ranging from 3.5 to 5.3 mg/l NO3-N) which can come from agricultural runoff. We noted a small crop and heifer farm located uphill and out of site of the spring – this is the likely source of the bacteria and elevated nitrate. Data are made available to the public at