Public Water Systems

Public water systems (PWSs) are regulated by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Division of Drinking and Ground Waters (Ohio EPA DDAGW).  Public water systems use either a ground water source, a surface water source, or a ground water under the direct influence of surface water source.  In Ohio, around 4,800 public water systems serve approximately 11 million people daily.  Public water systems are required to monitor their water regularly for contaminants.  Currently, over 95% of community water systems meet all health-based standards.  When a system doesn't meet a standard, consumers are notified.

 

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Understanding Your Drinking Water

Drinking water plant sampling

In a typical community public water system, water is transported under pressure through a distribution network of buried pipes. Smaller pipes, called house service lines, are attached to the main water lines to bring water from the distribution network to your house.

In many community water systems, water pressure is provided by pumping water up into storage tanks that store water at higher elevations than the houses they serve. The force of gravity then "pushes" the water into your home when you turn on your tap.

Some water suppliers use treatment processes if it's necessary to remove contaminants from the drinking water. The most commonly used processes include filtration, flocculation and sedimentation, and disinfection. If you want to know what types of treatment are used for your water supply, contact your local water supplier or public works department. 

More information about where your drinking water comes from is also available.

Types of Water Systems

A public water system is defined as a system that provides water for human consumption to at least 15 service connections or serves an average of at least 25 people for at least 60 days each year. This includes water used for drinking, food preparation, bathing, showering, tooth brushing and dishwashing. Public water systems range in size from large municipalities to small churches and restaurants relying on a single well.

  • Community water systems serve at least 15 service connections used by year-round residents or regularly serve at least 25 year-round residents.  Examples include cities, mobile home parks and nursing homes.

  • Nontransient noncommunity systems serve at least 25 of the same persons over six months per year. Examples include schools, hospitals and factories.

  • Transient noncommunity systems serve at least 25 different persons over 60 days per year.  Examples include campgrounds, restaurants and gas stations.  In addition, drinking water systems associated with agricultural migrant labor camps,  as defined by the Ohio Department of Agriculture, are regulated even though they may not meet the minimum number of people or service connections.

Private water systems are regulated by the Ohio Department of Health. Private water systems are households and small businesses that serve fewer than 25 people per day 60 days out of the year, and are thus not public water systems (e.g., small bed and breakfasts, small day cares and small churches).


U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA use a multiple barrier approach to defend against waterborne pathogens and chemical contaminants in drinking water.  Protection against contaminants occurs at each step from source to tap, beginning in the watershed or aquifer recharge area, continuing at the treatment facility and extending through the distribution system.

Source Water Selection and Protection

Selection of the best source of water available is an important step in protecting against contamination.  For surface water sources, this means locating and constructing water intakes to ensure little or no contamination. For ground water sources, this means constructing wells in appropriate locations, at appropriate depths and with approved construction methods (e.g., casing and grouting).

Source Water Assessment and Protection helps public waters systems understand where the drinking water comes from, how contaminants can get into the water supply and how to protect the water from contamination at the source.  Ohio EPA completes source water assessments for every public water system.  Each assessment includes:

  • delineating (or mapping) the source water assessment area;
  • conducting an inventory of potential sources of contamination in the delineated area;
  • determining the susceptibility of the water supply to those contamination sources; and
  • releasing the results of the determinations to the public.

The results of the assessment can be used to organize, develop and implement a source water protection plan.

System Design and Operation

Plan approval ensures that the system is well-engineered and constructed to reliably protect finished water from contamination.  The type of treatment required depends on the physical, microbiological and chemical characteristics and the types of contaminants present in the source water.  Also, storage facilities and distribution systems must have full circulation and avoid stagnant water conditions that might facilitate contamination.

Checking a box with a penSanitary surveys are routine inspections of public water systems to ensure proper construction and operation. The purpose of the sanitary survey is to evaluate and document the capabilities of a water system’s sources, treatment, storage, distribution network, operation and maintenance, and overall management to continually provide safe drinking water and to identify any deficiencies that might adversely impact a public water system’s ability to meet applicable regulations and provide a safe reliable water supply.

Competent operating personnel are vitally important to the safety of drinking water.  Ohio EPA's Operator Certification rules require that certain public water systems have a certified operator that is qualified to operate the system.  To become a certified operator, a person must meet educational and experience requirements, pass an exam and maintain their certification through continuing education (contact hours).

Monitoring

U.S. EPA sets national limits on contaminant levels in drinking water to ensure that the water is safe for human consumption.  These limits are known as maximum contaminant levels (MCLs).  For some regulations, U.S. EPA has established treatment techniques in lieu of an MCL to control unacceptable levels of contaminants in water by measuring the level of treatment.  To ensure drinking water safety, public water systems are required to test their water for contaminants on a regular basis.  The tests must be conducted at laboratories that are certified to perform such testing.

Generally, the larger the population served by a water system, the more frequent the monitoring requirements.  However, the frequency varies depending on which contaminant is being evaluated and the type of source water used by the public water system (e.g., surface water systems and systems that use ground water under the direct influence of surface water typically monitor more frequently than a ground water system).  Monitoring requirements also vary by public water system type which is based on how long a person is likely to have access to the water. 

Typically, testing would be most limited at a church that people attend only once per week, more expanded at a school or office building, and most extensive in a village or city.  This is because the health effects of some contaminants are acute, such as E. coli bacteria, meaning they have the potential to pose an immediate risk to health.  Other health effects are chronic, meaning that adverse health effects may result if the contaminant is consumed over an extended period of time.  Examples of contaminants with chronic effects include arsenic and lead.  Some contaminants can aesthetically impact drinking water, meaning the effects are in appearance or odor.  Examples of these contaminants include iron or sulfate.

Contaminants that may be tested for include:

  • Bacteria growth on plate in a laboratoryMicrobiological contaminants, such as viruses and bacteria, which may come from sewage treatment plants, septic systems, agricultural livestock operations and wildlife.
  • Inorganic contaminants (IOCs), such as salts and metals, which can occur naturally or result from urban stormwater runoff, industrial or domestic wastewater discharges, oil and gas production, mining or farming.
  • Synthetic organic chemicals (SOCs), such as pesticides and herbicides, which may come from a variety of sources such as agriculture, stormwater runoff and residential uses.
  • Volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), such as industrial chemicals and solvents, which can be byproducts of industrial processes and petroleum production, and can also come from gas stations, urban stormwater runoff, and septic systems.
  • Radiological contaminants (Rads), which can be naturally occurring or be the result of oil and gas production and mining activities.
  • Disinfection byproducts (DBPs), which can form when disinfectants such as chlorine, chlorine dioxide or ozone react with organic and inorganic substances present in the raw water.

More detailed information on specific contaminants can be found in the Common Contaminant Information section of the Monitoring tab.

Public Information

The majority of water testing shows that Ohio's drinking water meets standards.  When water does not meet a standard, the public water system is required to inform its consumers of the results.   Public notification is required to include a clear and understandable explanation of the nature of the violation, its potential adverse health effects, steps that the public water system is taking to correct the violation and the possibility for the need to obtain alternative water supplies during the violation.  Notification is required within 24 hours for acute contaminants and within 30 days for chronic contaminants.

Additionally, all community public water systems are required to prepare a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) annually and distribute the report to their customers. The reports contain information on the community's drinking water, including the source of the water, the contaminants detected, the likely sources of detected contaminants, the health effects of contaminants when violations occur and the availability of source water assessments.

Finally, Ohio EPA’s Drinking Water Use Advisories page is available to help make water testing results for health-related contaminants more accessible to the public.

Additional resources include:

Action level: the concentration of lead or copper in water that may trigger requirements for corrosion control, source water treatment, lead service line replacement and public education.  Compliance with an action level is based on multiple samples.

Human consumption: the ingestion or absorption of water or water vapor as the result of drinking, cooking, dishwashing, hand washing, bathing, showering or oral hygiene.

Maximum contaminant level (MCL): the maximum allowable level of a contaminant in public drinking water.  Most often, compliance with an MCL is based on an average of multiple samples.

Maximum residual disinfectant level (MRDL): the maximum allowable level of disinfectant in public drinking water.  Most often, compliance with an MRDL is based on an average of multiple samples.

Milligrams per liter (mg/L): milligrams of contaminant per liter of drinking water.

Public water system (PWS): a system which provides that for human consumption to an average of at least 25 individuals daily at least 60 days out of the year, or has at least 15 service connections.  This includes water used for drinking, food preparation, bathing, showering, tooth brushing and dishwashing.

Community PWS: serves at least 15 service connections used by year-round residents or regularly serves at least 25 year-round residents.  Examples include cities, mobile home parks, and nursing homes.

Nontransient noncommunity PWS:  regularly serves at least 25 of the same persons over six months per year. Examples include schools and businesses.

Transient noncommunity PWS: regularly serves at least 25 different persons over 60 days per year.  Examples include restaurants and gas stations. 

Public water system identification number (PWSID): a unique identifier for each public water system.

Secondary maximum contaminant level (SMCL): the advisable maximum allowable level of a contaminant in public drinking water.

Treatment technique: a method for treating water to achieve acceptable levels of contaminants in lieu of establishing a maximum contaminant level.

See Ohio Administrative Code 3745-81-01 for additional definitions.

Public Drinking Water Use Advisories

Public water systems are required to monitor their water regularly for contaminants. Currently, over 95% of community water systems meet all health-based standards. When a system doesn't meet a standard, consumers are notified. Notifications may be in the form of signs or multimedia announcements.  Advisories are also posted on the public drinking water advisories map.


Apparent Monitoring Violations

Ohio’s public water systems are required to monitor for a variety of contaminants on a regular basis, according to the system's monitoring schedule. When a public water system fails to monitor as required, Ohio EPA issues them a monitoring violation. Before issuing a violation to the system, Ohio EPA publishes a list of apparent monitoring violations, to give the system or the laboratory a final opportunity to submit sample results.

To view the list of systems that are on the current apparent violation list for missed monitoring, please click on the link below. This list contains the systems that do not have results submitted to Ohio EPA for the specified monitoring time period. Laboratories that have any of the missing results should submit the results to this office electronically as soon as possible in order to remove a system from the apparent violation list and prevent the system from receiving a violation letter. If you have any questions about this information, please contact the staff member indicated or call (614) 644-2752.

Ensure confidence in the quality of your water and save money by sampling on time. It costs an average of $25 for each total coliform sample and $20 for each nitrate sample. Beginning January 1, 2014, failing to sample for total coliform or nitrate will cost you $150 or more in penalties for each monitoring violation.  Save a Dime.  Sample on Time! 

To receive notifications by email, subscribe to the electronic mailing list.

Contaminant Group / Other
Contact
Total Coliform Bacteria District Office
Nitrate/Nitrite Wendy Sheeran
 Nitrate  Wendy Sheeran
Inorganic Chemicals (IOCs) Kathy Pinto
Arsenic Kathy Pinto
Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs) Mike Deal
Synthetic Organic Chemicals (SOCs) Wendy Sheeran
Radionuclides Wendy Sheeran
Disinfection Byproducts (DBPs) Mike Deal
Lead and Copper Ken Baughman
 Asbestos  Kathy Pinto
 Consumer Confidence Report
 Kathy Pinto

 

Monitoring and Reporting


View monitoring schedules using the drop-down list below.  The list will be updated whenever revised schedules are generated. If you have any questions regarding specific monitoring requirements, please contact one of the following staff at (614) 644-2752:

    Ken Baughman - Lead and Copper
    Mike Deal - DBPs; VOCs
    Kathy Pinto - Inorganics; Asbestos
    Wendy Sheeran - Nitrate; SOCs; Radiologicals

    Local Ohio EPA district office - Total Coliform Bacteria; Lead and Copper




This list contains labs and sampling services that can assist you with collecting and analyzing a water sample:

The following laboratories have been approved by Ohio EPA's Laboratory Certification program which ensures laboratories are able to perform accurate testing using U.S. EPA approved methods: 
 
For additional information on certified laboratories, please consult the laboratory certification page.

Total coliform bacteria are naturally present in the environment and are used as an indicator that other, potentially-harmful, bacteria may be present. If total coliform bacteria are present, the sample results will be "positive." "Negative" means total coliform bacteria are not present in the sample.

E. coli and fecal coliform bacteria are bacteria whose presence indicates that the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes. Microbes in these wastes can cause short-term effects, such as diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches or other symptoms.   They may pose a special health risk for infants, young children, some of the elderly, and people with severely compromised immune systems. 

Nitrate is a chemical contained in fertilizer and human and animal wastes.  Infants younger than six months who drink water containing high levels of nitrate could become seriously ill and, if untreated, may die.  Symptoms include shortness of breath and blueness of the skin. 

Arsenic is a naturally occurring chemical. Some people who drink water containing high levels of arsenic over many years could experience skin damage or problems with their circulatory systems, and may have an increased risk of getting cancer. 

Total trihalomethanes are byproducts formed as a result of disinfection.  Some people who drink water containing high levels of trihalomethanes over many years may experience problems with their liver, kidneys or central nervous systems, and may have an increased risk of getting cancer. 

Haloacetic acids are byproducts formed as a result of disinfection.  Some people who drink water containing high levels of haloacetic acids over many years may have an increased risk of getting cancer.  

Radionuclides are unstable forms of elements which break down over time and release radiation.  Some people who drink water containing levels of radionuclides above the MCL may have an increased risk of having kidney damage or getting cancer. 

Volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) are a variety of compounds composed primarily of carbon and hydrogen. They are used as solvents, degreasers, cleaning solutions, dry cleaning fluids, and components of pesticides and plastics.  Some people who drink water containing levels of VOCs above the MCL may have an increased risk of having organ damage, cancer, or blood and nervous system disorders.


Reference Information

FaucetReduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act - FAQs

A list of frequently asked questions is now available to assist manufacturers, retailers, regulators and the general public in complying with and understanding the requirements of the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act.  The FAQs address the definition of lead free, the effective date, calculating lead content, 3rd party certification, product labeling, repair and replacement parts, and exemptions.

Electronic Drinking Water Reporting (eDWR) and Paper Forms

Electronic Drinking Water ReportingResults of water samples are reported to Ohio EPA by public water systems and certified laboratories to demonstrate that the water meets health based standards.  The Division of Drinking and Ground Waters has developed the electronic Drinking Water Reports (eDWR) program to assist in the reporting process.  This program can be accessed through the Ohio EPA eBusiness Center, which is a secure portal for online business services.  Please visit the eDWR web page for more information on reporting forms, submitting data, and getting started with eDWR and the eBusiness Center. 

Please note that the eDWR web page also includes various paper forms related to lead and copper, LT-2, chemical SSRs, microbiological SSRs, etc. 

Join one of DDAGW's electronic mailing lists to receive updates on electronic reporting.


Stage 2 Disinfection Byproducts Rule

The Stage 2 Disinfection Byproduct Rule (Stage 2) was promulgated by U.S. EPA on January 4, 2006 to provide increased protection for consumers against disinfection byproducts forming in the distribution system. Beginning on January 1, 2012, the rule requires public water systems serving populations of 50,000 or more people to monitor at the locations and dates established during the Initial Distribution System Evaluation (IDSE).

The rule additionally requires all public water systems to develop and implement a sample monitoring plan for total trihalomethanes (TTHM) and five haloacetic acids (HAA5). The TTHM and HAA5 monitoring plans shall be maintained and a copy should be available for review by Ohio EPA and the public. Any distribution changes should be updated in the plan as soon as possible following the changes.

Public water systems completing an IDSE have already selected monitoring locations and dates. Public water systems not completing an IDSE, or ones that received an IDSE waiver, refer to the reference materials below to develop a sample monitoring plan:
Choose a Template below, specific to the source water type and population for your public water system:
 

Surface Water pop. 500-3,300

Surface Water or Ground Water pop. <500

Surface Water pop. 3,301-9,999

Ground Water pop. 500-9,999

Surface Water pop. 10,000-49,999

Ground Water pop. 10,000-99,999

Surface Water pop. 50,000-249,999

Ground Water pop. 100,000-499,999

Surface Water pop. 250,000-999,999

Ground Water pop. >500,000

Surface Water pop. 1,000,000-4,999,999

Operational Evaluation Level (OEL) Report

Ohio Adminstrative Code (OAC) Rule 3745-81-24(D) requires all public water systems monitoring for Total Trihalomethanes (TTHM) and Haloacetic Acids, five (HAA5) to meet Operational Evaluation Levels (OELs).

Operational Evaluation Levels are determined each monitoring location by summing the two previous quarters' results with twice the current quarters' result and dividing by four to determine an average.  An Operational Evaluation Level exceedance occurs when this average exceeds the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for either TTHM (0.080 mg/L) or HAA5 (0.060 mg/L).

A public water system exceeding an Operational Evaluation Level at one or more locations in the distribution system shall submit a complete "Disinfectants/Disinfection Byproducts Operational Evaluation Level Report" (Ohio EPA Form 5031) to the appropriate Ohio EPA district office within 90 days of notification of an Operational Evaluation Level exceedance.

In preparing Ohio EPA Form 5031, a public water system may wish to consult the Ohio EPA fact sheet or the U.S. EPA Stage 2 Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts Rule Operational Evaluation Guidance Manual for assistance.  The document reference is EPA 815-R-08-018.

Consumer Confidence Reports

Consumer Confidence Reports (CCRs) must be prepared by community public water systems and distributed by July 1 annually.  Public water systems that sell water to community public water systems must provide information that is necessary to complete their CCRs to the communities by April 1 annually.  Please consult Ohio Administrative Code Chapter 3745-96 for the rules associated with CCRs. 

CCR Forms

CCR Electronic Delivery Options

Electronic delivery is one instrument that Public Water Systems can use in order to meet the requirement to directly deliver their CCR to each customer. This year, U.S. EPA has published guidelines on how to incorporate electronic delivery of CCRs in a way that is compliant with the direct delivery requirement.  

Ohio EPA has updated our CCR Delivery Certification Form and our CCR Instructions to include electronic delivery information for this year. 
If you have questions about electronic delivery of CCRs, please click on the links below.  You will be directed to the USEPA Memorandum concerning electronic delivery options and considerations.

Memorandum: Safe Drinking Water Act - Consumer Confidence Report Rule Delivery Options

Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) Rule Electronic Delivery Webinar Slide Handout

Consumer Confidence Report Rule  (US EPA Web Page)

The Memorandum and Attachments provide an overview of electronic delivery methods and describe approaches for community water systems that may want to implement electronic delivery. It is important to note that the attachment provides a framework of information, recommendations and interpretations of existing CCR Rule provisions. It is not a rulemaking action and does not add to or replace any existing CCR Rule requirements. It also does not supersede any additional Ohio EPA requirements for content or delivery of CCRs.  If you have additional questions, please contact Kathy Pinto.

Send both your CCR and CCR Certification Form - no later than July 1st to:

Ohio EPA Division of Drinking and Ground Waters
Central Office
P.O. Box 1049

Columbus, OH 43216-1049

  Note: Do not send CCR information to the Ohio EPA District Office


CCR Table of Detected Contaminants

CCR Contaminant Reports for public water systems in each district office are included in the links below.

Please note the links below only contain data for systems with a population 500 or less.

CDO
NEDO
NWDO
SEDO
SWDO

Instructions:

  1. Select your District Office
  2. Search for your PWS ID by selecting "CTRL+F" and entering your PWS ID No.
  3. Highlight and copy the data table for your PWS and paste the data into your Word document

Note: Results in Ohio EPA tables only include submissions from Ohio EPA certified laboratories, and therefore do not contain any operational data that would be reported in Monthly Operating Reports.

    Disclaimer for Table of Detected Contaminants

    The Table of Detected Contaminants provided by Ohio EPA is not intended to be complete or all inclusive.  The tables are intended to assist public water systems with their data collection and consolidation efforts.  Public water systems will need to verify and add additional information to ensure their Table of Detected Contaminants is complete as required by the Consumer Confidence Rule (e.g., the lead and copper 90th percentile values which were less than detection, the total number of lead and copper samples collected, and the number of samples that exceeded the action level (AL) may need to be added). Surface water systems must also include turbidity levels and the percent of turbidity levels meeting the standard, total organic carbon (TOC), fluoride and total chlorine values, all in accordance with the CCR rule.

    Engineering and Plan Approval

    Backflow prevention devicePlan Review and Approval

    Standards, Policies and Guidance

    Backflow Prevention and Cross-Connection Control

    Approved Capacity

    Project Summary Sheets

    Contact Time Calculations

    Additional Resources for Public Water Suppliers 

    Operator adjusting settings in a water treatment plant

    Contact Information

    For questions related to specific public water systems, please contact the local Ohio EPA district office of the Division of Drinking and Ground Waters or contact the public water system directly.

    Rules, Policies, Procedures and Guidance

    Information to Assist Small Public Water Systems

    General Resources

    Fluoridation Resources

    Funding is available through the Fluoridation Assistance Program
    This program is available through the Ohio Department of Health and provides limited funds to reimburse communities for the start-up and maintenance of community water fluoridation.  Water systems interested in applying for funding through the Fluoridation Assistance Program can access the program guidelines and application materials or visit the Ohio Department of Health website for more information.