Is New Haven Tap Water Safe To Drink in 2024?

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Is it safe to drink New Haven tap water? Where does New Haven, CT water come from? And are there any contaminants in the City’s water supply that exceed EPA or SDWA guidelines?

We’ve answered all these questions and more in this New Haven tap water safety and quality guide.

πŸ“Œ Key Takeaways:

  • The drinking water in New Haven, Connecticut is considered generally safe to drink.
  • The City of New Haven water contains around 25 contaminants, but none of these are present in dangerous concentrations according to legal guidelines.
  • The 4 biggest problem contaminants in New Haven drinking water are chromium-6, disinfection byproducts, nitrate, and nitrite.

🚰 Can You Drink New Haven Tap Water?

Yes, you can drink the tap water in New Haven because the City’s water utility treats the water to make it potable and safe for consumption before it’s distributed to homes and businesses. The City’s water utility is also in compliance with legal drinking water standards according to the EPA Enforcement and Compliance History database.

When public water is treated, contaminants are reduced to trace levels (within legal limits) and microorganisms are killed with chlorine or another chemical disinfectant. This greatly reduces the potential risks and health effects of the untreated water source.

According to Standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the water in New Haven, CT is safe to drink. The EPA produced its Standards under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), and imposes limits on the amounts of certain contaminants that can be present in public drinking water.

Because none of the impurities in New Haven drinking water are detected at levels higher than the EPA’s limits, the water is technically – and legally – safe to drink.

That means that, on the surface, New Haven Regional Water Authority (the City’s water utility) is abiding by the law and taking the right steps to ensure its water is legally safe – but how far can we trust these legal guidelines?

Organizations like the Environmental Working Group (EWG) believe that actually, the EPA’s Maximum Contaminant Levels for most contaminants are too high – meaning that even contaminants that don’t exceed these MCLs could be present in amounts that pose a health risk.

The EPA has conducted research of its own and established a much more stringent set of Health Guidelines, for all of the EPA’s regulated contaminants and some contaminants that don’t currently have legal limits

Looking at the EWG’s Tap Water Database for New Haven, we can see that a total of 24 contaminants were detected – 12 that exceed the EWG’s Health Guidelines (more on these later).

Important note: The EWG is an independent organization and doesn’t work with the government in any way. That means that the EWG Health Guidelines are simply that – guidelines. Public water systems aren’t obliged to adhere to these Guidelines – they must only adhere to EPA enforcement.

What else should we consider when looking at New Haven tap water safety?

Lead is a major contaminant with serious health concerns that can easily make the difference between safe and unsafe water. Even low concentrations of this drinking water contaminant can be dangerous because it’s known to accumulate in the body over time.

You probably already know that New Haven has had problems with lead pipes in the past. In fact, one news article even questioned whether New Haven was “another Flint”, referring to the devastating lead water crisis in Flint, MI.

New Haven tap water

In 2021, a class-action settlement agreement went into effect in the City, with the aim of protecting children from lead poisoning. This settlement was achieved after children under 6 in 300 families were found to have elevated lead levels in their blood, and now means that the City must follow “dozens” of steps to reduce lead exposure in old homes in the community, including by inspecting and replacing lead pipes.

If your home was built before 1978, your water is more likely to contain lead because your plumbing system may have been built with this material.

πŸ‘¨β€πŸ”§ Does Connecticut have some of the poorest water quality in the US? Find out in this guide to the 10 worst water quality states.

πŸ—ΊοΈ Where Does the Tap Water in New Haven Come From?

So, where does the water in New Haven come from, and how does this affect its safety?

Most of the City’s water is sourced from surface water, but just over one-fifth of the New Haven water supply comes from groundwater (underground) supplies.

There are ten lakes that supply New Haven with water, based in Bethany, Branford, East Haven, Hamden, Guilford, Killingworth, Madison, North Branford, and Woodbridge. These are filled by rivers in the nearby areas.

The City also gets its water from three aquifers, natural pockets beneath the ground that are gradually filled with water from rainfall. These aquifers are the Housatonic River aquifer, located in Seymour and Derby, and the Quinnipiac and Mill River aquifers, located in Hamden and Cheshire.

Surface water quality tends to be poorer than groundwater quality because surface water is exposed to the elements, while groundwater water is naturally filtered as it passes through rocks and soils into the aquifer.

Different parts of the City get their water from different sources. The distribution system is interconnected, meaning that some neighborhoods might get two or more sources of drinking water. Blending the water sources means that the City’s water utility can provide enough water to meet customer demands on any occasion.

Purification facility in Whitney
source: stevenholl.com

Regardless of where the water in New Haven comes from, it undergoes the same disinfection and treatment process at one of several water treatment plants, including the Whitney Water Purification Facility. Water is treated with the following processes:

  • Removal of large particles – Water first travels through large sieves that remove debris like twigs and leaves.
  • Coagulation – Water is treated with chemicals that cause particles to stick together and sink to the bottom.
  • Sedimentation – The large clumps of particles remain in the bottom of the tank while the surface water continues to the filtration stage.
  • Filtration – Natural sand, gravel, and charcoal filters are used to remove smaller particles.
  • Disinfection – Water is treated with chlorine or a similar chemical to kill microorganisms and prevent the spread of waterborne disease.

This clean, disinfected water can then be delivered to homes and businesses in the distribution system.

πŸ“‰ Who Regulates New Haven Drinking Water?

The City of New Haven tap water is managed by the New Haven Regional Water Authority (RWA) and regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Connecticut Department of Public Health.

The EPA regulates all public water systems (PWS) over a certain size. The organization outlines which contaminants should be monitored and reduced in water in its National Primary Drinking Water Regulations.

These legally enforceable standards the outline maximum amounts of certain regulated contaminants that can be present in water, known as Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs). All water utilities must treat their water to make it safe and potable by reducing contaminants to below the MCLs.

New Haven adheres to the EPA’s regulations through the prevention of water pollution and testing.

The City’s aquifers and watersheds are monitored and protected to prevent their water quality from being compromised. New Haven is one of the few cities to prohibit discharges from sewage treatment plants within the watershed of any reservoir supplying surface water in the region.

The RWA conducts more than 110,000 tests every year, on over 10,000 samples. This testing data is reported regularly to the Connecticut Department of Public Health.

The EPA has also established an Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR), which is used to monitor large water utilities for the presence of contaminants that don’t currently have legal regulations or restrictions.

πŸ§ͺ New Haven Annual Water Quality Report

Information about New Haven’s water quality, including where the water is sourced, how it is treated, what it contains, and how concentrations of contaminants compare to EPA MCLs, are shared in the City’s annual Water Quality Report (or Consumer Confidence Report).

The most recent Water Quality Report for New Haven is the 2022 Report, containing data from January to December 2022.

The Report shows that in this year, the City met regulatory standards for all the contaminants detected in the public water supply. That means that no contaminants were detected in concentrations higher than the EPA legal limit.

Of course, you might not want to drink even trace levels of certain contaminants, whether legally permissible or not. For instance, 2 testing sites contained lead above the EPA Action Level for lead, which is concerning given the dangers of this toxic heavy metal – even if overall, the City still met regulatory standards for lead.

Some of the contaminants listed in the Report include:

  • Barium
  • Chloride
  • Fluoride
  • Nitrate
  • Total haloacetic acids
  • Total trihalomethanes
  • Chlorine
  • Lead

The Report also lists a number of unregulated contaminants detected in the water, according to the EPA’s Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule. These contaminants mostly consist of disinfection byproducts, including:

  • Monobromoacetic acid
  • Dibromoacetic acid
  • Bromochloroacetic acid
  • Bromodichloroacetic acid

πŸ‘¨β€πŸ”§ We recommend that you take some time to read through the report and learn about the contaminants present in your drinking water supply.

You can also compare the most recent Report with Water Quality Reports dating back to 2018 (view the available reports here) to learn how the City’s water quality has changed over time.

Water Quality

☣️ Contaminants Found Above Guidelines in Tap Water in New Haven

We know that New Haven’s tap water is safe to drink according to EPA standards. So, in this section, we’ll be looking at the contaminants that exceed the EWG public Health Guidelines.

Remember that these Guidelines aren’t legally enforceable, so New Haven Regional Water Authority is technically not at fault for failing to reduce its water contaminants to below these levels.

However, you may agree with the Environmental Working Group that the EPA’s own restrictions are too lenient. If so, you’ll be interested to learn about the contaminants present above EWG Guidelines in your water:

Haloacetic acids (HAA5)† and Haloacetic acids (HAA9)†

Two common disinfection byproducts produced when water is treated with chlorine are HAA5 and HAA9. These disinfection byproducts increase the risk of cancer (including bladder, colon, liver, and rectal cancer), and may also cause liver damage and other health effects in large amounts. 36.6 PPB and 34.0 PPB (parts per billion) of HAA5 and HAA9 were detected in New Haven drinking water – between 366 and 567x the EWG’s Health Advisories of 0.1 PPB and 0.06 PPB. The EPA legal limit for HAA5 is 60 PPB, while HAA9 currently has no MCL.

Hexavalent Chromium

Hexavalent chromium, or chromium-6, is a dangerous chemical that gets into water due to industrial pollution (such as from metal plating operations and steel mills). 0.237 PPB of this cancer-causing contaminant was detected in the New Haven water system – 12x the EWG’s Health Guideline of 0.02 PPB. Chromium-6 on its own isn’t currently regulated by the EPA – only total chromium is regulated.

Hexavalent Chromium contamination from industrial waste

Nitrate and Nitrite

Nitrate and nitrite are two forms of nitrogen that get into water due to fertilizer runoff, urban drainage, and pollution from septic systems, landfills, and wastewater. In large amounts, they may affect the blood’s ability to carry oxygen and cause headaches, nausea, and increased heart rate. 1.27 PPM of nitrate and nitrite were detected in New Haven water, which is 9.1 the EWG’s Health Guideline of 0.14 PPM. The EPA’s legal limit for nitrate and nitrite is 10 PPM.

Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs)†

TTHMs, or total trihalomethanes, are also commonly produced when chlorine reacts with organic material in tap water, and may increase the risk of cancers (including colon and bladder cancers) if they’re present at very high levels. 48.8 PPB of TTHMs were detected in New Haven drinking water – 325x the EWG’s recommended Health Guideline of 0.15 PPB but well within the EPA legal limit of 80 PPB.

Chlorine in tap water

Other Disinfection Byproducts

Several other disinfection byproducts, including bromodichloromethane, chloroform, dibromoacetic acid, dibromochloromethane, dichloroacetic acid, and trichloroacetic acid, were also detected in New Haven’s water. The EPA hasn’t set legal limits for the majority of these contaminants, but the EWG has its own recommended Health Guidelines of 0.06-o.4 PPB (different for each contaminant).0.0933 PPB to 33.4 PPB of the listed disinfection byproducts were found in New Haven tap water 2.3 – to 211x these Guidelines.

🧫 Main Contaminants Found in New Haven Tap Water

There are other contaminants present in the New Haven water system that don’t exceed the EPA legal limit or the EWG Health Guidelines. These are:

  • 1,4-Dioxane – An organic compound classed as an ether that’s used in paints, cosmetics, and varnishes; exposure over a person’s lifetime may cause health risks like cancer, liver damage, and respiratory problems.
  • Barium – A non-toxic, naturally occurring metal that is present in some sedimentary and igneous rocks; doesn’t pose a public health risk in low levels but may cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, paralysis, and even death if large amounts are consumed.
  • Disinfection byproducts including bromoform, chlorate and monochloroacetic acid – Occur when disinfectants like chlorine react with organic matter; large amounts may damage the liver and increase the risk of certain cancers.
  • Fluoride – A mineral found naturally in New Haven water and produced synthetically and used to boost the City’s fluoride intake for dental health purposes; not a known public health hazard in low levels but may cause dental fluorosis (discoloration of the tooth enamel) in young children and infants.
  • Manganese – A hard water mineral, usually present alongside calcium, which is safe to drink but causes aesthetic issues including limescale staining, reduced water flow, dry skin and hair, and poor lather with soap.
  • Strontium – Another naturally occurring metal that the human body may mistake for calcium, causing health risks such as weakened bone structure in large amounts.
  • Total chromium – Refers to both chromium-6 (the harmful form of chromium that causes cancer and other health risks) and chromium-3 (the mostly harmless form of chromium, otherwise known as trivalent chromium) in water.
  • Vanadium – A metal that occurs naturally in the environment and shouldn’t pose a health hazard in low levels.

β›² New Haven Drinking Water in Public Places

Is it safe to drink the water in public places like hotels, bars, and restaurants in New Haven?

Yes. The public water in New Haven is exactly the same as the water supplied to homes and businesses by the City’s water utility. Public places are on the same distribution system, so the water quality is no different.

Most restaurant and bar staff will provide free tap water on request, but they’re not legally obliged to, and you might have to pay for another drink depending on the establishment’s own rules.

Most hotels have clean, safe drinking water in their bathroom faucets, or may provide you with a small quantity of bottled water for free. If you’re not sure about the safety of the bathroom tap water, check at the reception or ask for water from the hotel bar.

Bottled water is also widely available in grocery stores and supermarkets in the City, and many bottled water products have the advantage of being more thoroughly filtered than normal tap water. Keep in mind that plastic bottles are bad for the environment, so you should reduce your bottled water intake where possible.

Child drinking water from fountain

Continue Reading: Easy and Affordable Ways to Test Water Quality at Home

πŸ’¬ Frequently Asked Questions

Is New Haven tap water safe to drink?

Yes, the tap water in New Haven is safe to drink because none of the contaminants present in the water exceed the EPA’s legal limit. However, some organizations, like the Environmental Working Group, argue that many of these contaminants may still affect human health when present in levels deemed safe by the EPA. Many homes and businesses in New Haven are also at risk of lead contamination. If you’re concerned about your tap water quality, consider installing a water filter system at home.

Is it safe to drink tap water in Connecticut?

Yes, it’s safe to drink tap water in Connecticut. However, some cities are at risk of lead water contamination, so if you have an old plumbing system or you’re just concerned about this drinking water contaminant, we recommend testing your water for lead.

Where does New Haven CT water come from?

The water in New Haven, CT comes from 10 lakes located in Bethany, Branford, East Haven, Hamden, Guilford, Killingworth, Madison, North Branford, and Woodbridge, as well as three aquifers: the Housatonic River aquifer in Seymour and Derby, and the Quinnipiac and Mill River aquifers located in Hamden and Cheshire.

Does New Haven have hard water?

Yes, New Haven has very hard water, with a reading of about 194 PPM. If you live in New Haven and you haven’t installed a water softener, you may notice the effects of hard water, including limescale formation on your pipes and water-using appliances, poor lather with soap, and dry skin and hair.

Is New Haven tap water fluoridated?

Yes, the water in New Haven, CT is fluoridated. Fluoride is added to the City’s water because of the mineral’s known dental health benefits (fluoride prevents tooth decay and protects the tooth enamel). Because New Haven’s various water sources contain fluctuating amounts of natural fluoride, the City adjusts the amount of fluoride it adds to the water to ensure that it’s always within the EPA’s safe range of 0.55 mg/l (or parts per million) to 0.85 mg/l.

How is New Haven drinking water disinfected?

New Haven drinking water is disinfected with chlorine and similar chemicals. Chlorine is commonly used for water disinfection in public water systems because it’s affordable and effective in large-scale applications. However, adding chlorine to water has several setbacks, including the formation of numerous cancer-causing disinfection byproducts (produced when chlorine reacts with natural organic matter in the water). Unfortunately, many non-chemical disinfection alternatives, like UV purification, are too expensive to employ at water treatment facilities.

What town has the best drinking water in CT?

There’s no definite data online that tells us which town in CT has the best drinking water. You could compare all the Water Quality Reports in the state – but that would take a very long time. If you’re curious or concerned about your own water quality, conduct a water test to find out exactly what it contains.

  • Laura Shallcross
    Senior Editor

    Laura is a passionate residential water treatment journalist who holds an undergraduate degree in Print Journalism and a master’s degree in Creative Writing. Over a span of 5 years she's written on a range of topics including water softening, well water treatment, and purification processes.

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