In comments submitted last week to the US Army and the US Environmental Protection Agency regarding the Final Proposed Remedial Action Plan for the Seneca Army Depot Munitions Sites, Seneca Lake Pure Water Association (SLPWA) requested that steps be taken to identify and remove the source(s) of phosphorus, coliform and E. coli which are polluting Reeder Creek, Seneca Lake and other downstream waterways.
The US Army, Environmental Protection Agency and the NYS DEC invited Public Comments regarding their recommendation to implement Land Use Controls to prohibit residential housing, elementary and secondary schools, childcare facilities or playgrounds and requires annual Explosive Safety Education for property owners of the former munitions sites. The plan states that it protects human health and the environment by limiting human interactions with munitions and explosives of concern, the plan is easily implementable and the estimated 30-year cost of remediation is $56,400.00. However, the plan also clearly states that it does not reduce the toxicity, mobility or volume of wastes.
Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association began monitoring the water quality of the Reeder Creek in 2014. Water samples from Reeder Creek, analyzed by Community Science Institute in Ithaca, New York, a state-certified water quality testing laboratory, repeatedly showed high levels of phosphorus as well as elevated levels of pathogen (coliform, e-coli) concentrations. Upon review by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), Reeder Creek was placed on the NYS Section 303(d) List of Impaired Waters due to its high phosphorus levels. The DEC recently released the results of 2016 benthic macroinvertebrate studies of Reeder Creek, which classified the stream as being moderately impacted.
Elevated levels of phosphorus in the lake stimulate growth of algae and harmful cyanobacteria (HABS). The shoreline of Seneca Lake, north of the mouth of Reeder Creek (near the Waterloo drinking water intake) has experienced HABS blooms during the past two summers. Reducing the phosphorus levels in Reeder Creek is necessary to help reduce algae blooms along this shoreline.
While SLPWA’s first priority concern with Reeder Creek is the high level of phosphorus it carries into Seneca Lake, it is not the only concern. The water sampling results also measured levels of coliform and E. coli that are generally higher than NYSDEC guidance levels. It is thought that the source of the elevated levels of phosphorus is related to the disposal of munitions at the Seneca Army Depot and that the sources of the coliform and E. coli are most likely wastewater treatment discharges into the creek.
While the Army’s plan attempts to protects human health and the environment by limiting human interactions with munitions and explosives of concern it does not address the long terms hazards of phosphorus, coliform and E. coli flowing into our drinking water source, Seneca Lake.