Nitrate levels exceed state limits

COHOCTON — Tainted water in the Village of Cohocton has resulted in a ban on giving it to children under six months old. 

On Wednesday, the village received notice that a water sample collected on May 1 showed nitrate levels of 12 mg/L, higher than the Department of Health mandated nitrate standard of less than 10 mg/L.

"Nitrate in drinking water is a serious health concern for infants less than six months old," said a notice from the village.

The village's water system serves 380 service connections, and comes from two wells located at 10741 State Route 371 in the Town of Cohocton.

On Wednesday, several village officials speculated that a wet spring has caused excess runoff from farmlands to enter its wells.

Nitrate in drinking water can come from natural, industrial, or agricultural sources (including septic systems and farm run-off). As a result, residents are being advised not to give village drinking water to infants until further notice.

Infants below the age of six months who drink the contaminated water could become seriously ill and, if untreated, may die. Symptoms include shortness of breath and blue baby syndrome. Blue baby syndrome is indicated by blueness of the skin. Symptoms in infants can develop rapidly, with health deteriorating over a period of days. If symptoms occur, residents are advised to seek medical attention immediately.

Water, juice, and formula for children under six months of age should not be prepared with tap water. Bottled water or other water low in nitrates should be used for infants until further notice.

Boiling, freezing, filtering, or letting water stand does not reduce the nitrate level. Excessive boiling can make the nitrates more concentrated, because nitrates remain behind when the water evaporates.

Adults and children older than six months can drink the tap water (nitrate is a concern for infants because they can’t process nitrates in the same way adults can). However, if you are pregnant or have specific health concerns, you may wish to consult your doctor.

According to Maintenance Supervisor/Chief Operator Justin Coats, additional tests are ongoing, and when results are available, they will be made known to the public. The need for further action will be assessed once the results of the repeat testing are made available.

While the appearance of nitrates is not a common occurrence, according to Coats, it had caused the village to previously move its wells to a new location.

"We test quarterly for this. It's a number that fluctuates throughout the year and it's usually pretty low, at 1, 2, or 3 mg/L," one official said.

According to the the 2018 Water Quality Report, the village's average average Nitrate level was 2.86 mg/L. Until contaminant levels return to normal, residents are encouraged to prepare infants meals with bottled water.

A copy of the Village's annual water quality study is available online at