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October 5, 1998

Contact: Cathy DelliCarpini, DEP (718/595-6600)
Sandra Mullin, DOH (212/788-5290)

DEP and DOH Officials Issue Drinking Water Information

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the City's Department of Health (DOH) are providing information about the quality of your drinking water. DEP along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and hundreds of other water systems in the U.S. is taking part in a major drinking water testing program. This program, known as the Information Collection Rule (ICR), will gather information on drinking water contaminants. Along with ongoing research on health effects, water treatment, and other areas, this information will be used to revise drinking water safety standards.

One of the contaminants DEP tests for as part of the ICR is Cryptosporidium. This parasite has caused a number of recent outbreaks of waterborne disease in the U.S. and other countries. The testing DEP does is vital to future control of Cryptosporidium. As part of this program, since July of 1997, DEP has collected 48 samples from three locations. With the exception of two samples taken this month which detected very low levels of the parasite, all prior samples could not confirm the presence of Cryptosporidium. Follow-up sampling reports completed today detected no presence of the parasite.

In addition to testing required under the ICR, in 1992, DEP added a pathogen monitoring program component to its comprehensive watershed monitoring program. Since then, samples have been collected weekly from the effluents of the Kensico and New Croton reservoirs. Additionally, the City's inter-agency Active Disease Surveillance Unit continues to track the incidence of cryptosporidiosis. Our surveillance system shows no signs of increased cryptosporidiosis or diarrheal illness.

Health Commissioner Neal L. Cohen M.D. said, "There is currently no need for any concern about our drinking water for the general public. People with severely weakened immune systems should speak with their health care providers about how to protect themselves against Cryptosporidium from all sources."

NBC movie "Thirst" to air Sunday, October 25, depicts fictional contamination of urban water system

DOH and DEP officials are concerned that this fictional account might unnecessarily alarm the public. It is possible that inaccurate information about Cryptosporidium will be conveyed by association with a fictional parasite. For example, unlike the depiction in the movie, Cryptosporidium is killed by boiling water. DEP Commissioner Joel A. Miele Sr., P.E. noted, "New Yorkers can be assured that our water supply is safe and that our watershed protection efforts are improving the state of our already high quality drinking water supplies. A small detection of Cryptosporidium is characteristic of drinking water from surface supplies nationwide."

DEP and DOH will continue to examine a number of measures of water quality and system operation and, if appropriate, let the public know of any precautions they might need to take. For more information about New York City's drinking water contact DEP at 718/DEP-HELP or visit DEP's Web site. DOH may be reached at 212/788-9641. More information is also available by calling EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.


More Information

NYC Department of Environmental Protection
Public Affairs

59-17 Junction Boulevard
19th Floor
Flushing, NY 11373

(718) 595-6600