The Department of Environmental Protection says that Thursday afternoon tests of tap water in southeastern Queens found little or no traces of tetrochloroethylene, aka perc. The chemical, used in dry cleaning and in auto repair, can cause cancer if exposure is high, but the DEP says that the higher-than-normal levels found last week were "minute" and "were not expected" to lead to health risks. Here's the DEP's press release:
After conducting extensive inspections of water/sewer connections at businesses in portions of the Queens neighborhoods of Queens Village, St. Albans, Cambria Heights and Hollis, DEP has identified a potential source of the PERC contamination discovered during routine water testing earlier this week by DEP scientists. PERC is a chemical commonly used in dry cleaning and auto-body repair.
DEP inspectors discovered an illegal connection to the City’s surface water distribution system at a local business, and the Agency is contacting the property owner in order to gain entry to the building and perform sampling. DEP is unable to conclude whether this business is the source of contamination and cannot yet rule out the possibility of other sources.
DEP will continue to perform extensive sampling to better define the affected area. Fire hydrants will continue to be flushed in order to drain contaminants from the drinking water supply system.
Still, Queens residents are pretty worried - many went to stock up on bottled water! An independent consultant told the Daily News that people should be careful because bathing water might contain the chemical and showering should take place in a ventilated space (no perc fumes!).
The NY Times has a great article that mentions how tetrachloroethylene has popped up into the Queens drinking water supply before - and why a small part of Queens was affected when the rest of the city wasn't (some of Queens is served by wells).