Senator Saland Announces Passage Of Bill On The Testing Of Private Wells

Stephen M. Saland

June 17, 2008

The legislation would encourage the testing of more private wells, notify residents of potentially contaminated areas, and provide prospective buyers with greater disclosure on the water quality of a private well. It also authorizes the local governing body upon the advice of the state Department of Health and Department of Environmental Conservation to require at-risk areas to undergo mandatory well testing when a property changes hands, as well as creates a public information and education program. The bill also establishes a pilot program for Dutchess and Rockland Counties which allows any homeowner to test their well and be reimbursed from the state’s Hazardous Waste Remediation Oversight and Assistance Account.

In addition, the bill would provide for state funds to be used for the reimbursement of mandatory testing for all private wells within the vicinity of Superfund sites. Similarly, prospective homeowners who voluntarily test their wells would be eligible to receive a tax credit, based on a maximum cost for the testing developed by the Department of Health.

In some parts of Dutchess County, pollutants not detected by commonly used water tests have been discovered. When a prospective buyer seeks a mortgage, lending institutions often require water tests, which do not detect dangerous contaminants such as PCE, TCE or MTBE. “More sophisticated testing is needed to detect these dangerous chemicals, however, many potential home buyers are unaware of the need for more comprehensive well testing. My legislation will not only encourage owners and buyers to test the water supply, but alert them if any nearby properties have failed test results presenting health threats.” said Saland. “With knowledge in hand, they can take action to protect their families.”

In New Jersey, the only state to mandate testing of all private wells, 8% of those wells tested positive for these pollutants. Of the 8% that tested positive ,1.4% of all tested wells tested positive for contaminants not detected on the test commonly required by mortgage lenders. The cost of these tests ranges from $350 to $650. Outside of New York’s cities, more than 20% of the state’s population, in over 800,000 households, are serviced by private wells. In excess of 40,000 of those households are in Dutchess and Columbia Counties.

"My bill is sensitive to the need for local input and avoids costly mandates and assures that those who are required to test or choose to test are reimbursed," Saland noted.

Saland’s legislation is a comprehensive approach to the problem of serious well water contamination. “By heightening public awareness, more private wells will be tested, thus protecting not only a family’s investment but their health as well. My legislation not only provides notice of contamination or potential contamination, but provides significant penalties in the event of the failure to disclose. My bill accomplishes this worthy goal without mandating a costly test on hundreds of thousands of New York homeowners without regard to the location of their property or lack of likelihood of potential contamination,” Saland concluded.