Unveiling the 7 Most Common Contaminants in New York’s Water Sources (with Videos!)

Most Common Contaminants in New York's Water Sources
Photo by Laura D Vargas on Unsplash.com

Clean and safe drinking water is an essential resource for human health and well-being. However, even in a city as advanced as New York, water sources can be susceptible to various contaminants. 

In this article, we will delve into the seven most common contaminants found in New York’s water sources, shedding light on their potential risks and the measures taken to ensure water quality.


Lead contamination has been a prominent issue in New York’s water infrastructure. Aging pipes and plumbing systems can release lead into the water supply, posing serious health risks, especially for infants and children. 

Efforts are underway to replace lead pipes and improve corrosion control methods to minimize lead exposure. Additionally, comprehensive testing and monitoring programs are implemented to detect and address elevated lead levels promptly.

Side effects of lead in water:

  • Developmental delays and learning difficulties in children
  • Decreased IQ
  • Behavioral problems
  • Kidney damage and reproductive issues in adults
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular diseases

Watch this video to learn how to remove lead from your drinking water:


Iron is a naturally occurring mineral that can be found in New York’s water sources. While small amounts of iron in drinking water are generally not harmful, excessive levels can lead to various issues, affecting both the quality of the water and its impact on our health. 

When iron concentrations are high, the water may have a metallic taste that can be unpleasant to drink. Additionally, the presence of iron can cause the water to appear yellow, brown, or orange, resulting in discolored tap water. 

This discoloration can also stain clothes, dishes, and bathroom fixtures, requiring extra effort and expense to clean. While iron is not considered a significant health hazard, its presence can affect the overall quality of the water and its taste, making it less desirable for consumption. Therefore, it is crucial to maintain appropriate levels of iron in drinking water to ensure its overall quality and avoid the associated side effects.

Since iron is one of the most common water contaminants, removing it requires purchasing and installing a whole house iron removal system like the Springwell SS1 iron filter, a product recommended by Waterdefense in their best iron water filter article.

Side effects of iron in water:

  • Metallic taste in water
  • Discolored water
  • Stained laundry and fixtures

Watch this video to learn how to remove iron from your water:


Chlorine is a widely used disinfectant in water treatment facilities throughout New York to eliminate bacteria, viruses, and other harmful microorganisms in the water supply. While chlorine effectively kills pathogens, excessive levels of chlorine in drinking water can have negative impacts on both taste and health.

Chlorine can cause skin irritation, leading to dryness, itching, and redness, particularly for individuals with sensitive skin. It may also irritate the eyes, causing redness, burning, or stinging sensations. In some cases, inhaling chlorine vapors or consuming highly chlorinated water can lead to respiratory issues, such as coughing, wheezing, or exacerbation of asthma symptoms.

Prolonged exposure to elevated levels of chlorine in drinking water has also been associated with an increased risk of certain cancers, although the overall risk is relatively low.

Watch this video to understand more about why chlorine is used to disinfect our water:

Side effects of chlorine in water:

  • Skin and eye irritation
  • Respiratory problems
  • Increased risk of certain cancers


Nitrates are chemical compounds that can find their way into New York’s water sources through various sources, including agricultural runoff, industrial activities, and wastewater discharge. High levels of nitrates in drinking water can pose significant health risks, particularly for infants and pregnant women.

Infants who consume water with elevated nitrate levels are at risk of developing methemoglobinemia, also known as blue baby syndrome. This condition impairs the blood’s ability to carry oxygen, leading to a bluish discoloration of the skin and potential breathing difficulties. Pregnant women who consume water high in nitrates may experience complications, including an increased risk of birth defects.

Watch this video to understand more about the nitrates dilemma:

Side effects of nitrates in water:

  • Methemoglobinemia (blue baby syndrome)
  • Reduced oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood
  • Increased risk of birth defects

Coliform Bacteria:

Coliform bacteria are a group of microorganisms commonly used as indicators of water contamination. Their presence in New York’s water sources suggests the potential presence of harmful pathogens that can cause waterborne diseases. Coliform bacteria can enter water supplies through various sources, including sewage, animal waste, or inadequate water treatment.

Consuming water contaminated with coliform bacteria can lead to gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Abdominal cramps and discomfort may also be experienced. In some cases, the presence of specific strains of coliform bacteria can cause more severe infections, resulting in fever and other flu-like symptoms.

Side effects of coliform bacteria in water:

  • Gastrointestinal issues (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea)
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Fever

Watch this video to learn how to remove coliform bacteria from your water:

PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances):

PFAS, which stands for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, are a group of synthetic chemicals that have gained significant attention due to their widespread presence in the environment, including New York’s water sources. PFAS are commonly used in various consumer products. Their persistence and potential health risks have raised concerns regarding water contamination.

Exposure to elevated levels of PFAS in drinking water has been associated with increased cholesterol levels, which can contribute to cardiovascular issues. PFAS chemicals can also affect thyroid function, leading to thyroid disease and hormonal disruptions. Furthermore, studies have suggested a potential link between PFAS exposure and an increased risk of certain cancers, such as kidney and testicular cancer.

Watch this video to learn more:

Side effects of PFAs in Water:

  • Increased cholesterol levels
  • Thyroid disease
  • Increased risk of certain cancers


Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that can be found in New York’s water sources, particularly in areas with geological deposits containing arsenic-rich minerals. Exposure to high levels of arsenic in drinking water can have severe health effects and is a significant concern for water quality management.

Long-term exposure to arsenic-contaminated water can lead to the development of skin lesions, such as thickening and discoloration of the skin. Arsenic is also a known carcinogen, and prolonged ingestion of arsenic-contaminated water has been linked to an increased risk of skin, bladder, and lung cancer. Additionally, exposure to high levels of arsenic has been associated with cardiovascular disease and an increased prevalence of diabetes.

Watch this video to learn more:

Side effects of Arsenic in Water:

  • Skin lesions
  • Increased risk of skin, bladder, and lung cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes

Water treatment

Addressing water contaminants requires a multi-faceted approach involving both individuals and water treatment facilities. Here are potential solutions for each of the seven contaminants discussed:



  • Water treatment methods such as oxidation, filtration, or ion exchange to remove excess iron.
  • Installation of water softeners or iron removal systems.
  • Periodic cleaning and maintenance of plumbing systems.


  • Water treatment facilities ensure proper chlorine dosage to maintain disinfection while minimizing excessive levels.
  • Use of activated carbon filters or other suitable water filtration systems to remove chlorine from drinking water at the point of use.
  • Allowing tap water to sit uncovered for a short period allows chlorine to dissipate naturally before consumption.


  • Implementing proper agricultural practices to minimize nitrate runoff, such as controlled fertilizer application and establishing buffer zones.
  • Regular testing of private wells and water sources for nitrate levels.
  • Installation of nitrate-specific water treatment systems like reverse osmosis or ion exchange.

Coliform Bacteria:

  • Regular monitoring and testing of water sources for coliform bacteria.
  • Upgrading and maintaining water treatment facilities to ensure effective removal of coliform bacteria.
  • Educating the public on proper hygiene and sanitation practices to prevent contamination.


  • Phasing out the use of PFAS chemicals in consumer products and industrial processes.
  • Implementing stricter regulations on PFAS discharge into water sources.
  • Employing advanced water treatment technologies like activated carbon filtration or advanced oxidation processes to remove PFAS from drinking water.


  • Regular testing of water sources for arsenic levels, especially in areas with known geological arsenic deposits.
  • Installation of arsenic-specific water treatment systems like reverse osmosis or adsorption filters.
  • Public education on the risks of arsenic exposure and the importance of accessing alternative water sources if arsenic levels are high.

It is essential for individuals to be proactive in testing their water sources and using appropriate filtration systems to ensure the quality and safety of their drinking water. Additionally, continued investment in water treatment infrastructure and adherence to stringent regulations will help mitigate the presence of these contaminants in New York’s water sources.


Maintaining the safety and quality of New York’s water sources is an ongoing challenge. The presence of contaminants such as lead, iron, chlorine, nitrates, coliform bacteria, PFAS, and arsenic demands constant vigilance and proactive measures. While water treatment facilities play a crucial role in ensuring that water is safe for consumption, individuals also have a responsibility to protect their health by taking necessary precautions.

Through regular testing, proper maintenance, and the use of certified filtration systems, individuals can minimize their exposure to contaminants like lead, iron, chlorine, nitrates, coliform bacteria, PFAS, and arsenic. Water treatment facilities must continue to monitor and control these contaminants to strike a balance between effective disinfection and minimizing potential health risks.

Government agencies, environmental organizations, and public awareness campaigns are instrumental in promoting water quality and encouraging responsible practices. Stricter regulations, improved agricultural practices, and the phased reduction of harmful chemicals like PFAS are vital steps toward safeguarding water sources.

Clean and safe drinking water is a fundamental human right, and it is our collective responsibility to protect and preserve it. By remaining vigilant, staying informed, and actively participating in water quality initiatives, we can ensure a healthier future for New York and its residents.t

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