Written by Rich Adams and Ron Klinczar
As you may have heard, SNPR has a focus on the reduction of sediments and nutrients that find their way to Seneca Lake from stormwater related runoff. These include runoff from agricultural sources, from urban areas, from roads and from ditch erosion. These are known as “non-point” sources as the runoff is not attributable to a single point of discharge. SNPR is doing this by providing technical and funding assistance to entities like county Soil and Water Conservation Districts, who are experts in environmental management practices that control sediment and nutrient discharges.
However, another important aspect of SNPR engagement is pollutant reduction that deals with point source pollution from municipal and private sewage treatment systems, industrial sources, and direct stormwater discharges.
There are three large WWTP's that discharge into the lake and several smaller ones that discharge into tributaries. The nutrient loads from these discharges can cause localized water quality problems, like nutrient hot spots, or exceedance of bacterial water quality standards. This is especially true when wet weather flows compromise the treatment capacity and efficiency of the WWTP's.
One example is the Five Points WWTP which discharges to Reeder Creek on the east side of the lake. Discharge from this plant has caused water quality exceedances in phosphorus and other pollutants in the Creek and at its mouth. This zone of the lake is used extensively for recreation and water supply, and each summer, there are egregious growths of nuisance algae and HAB’s. Five Points WWTP is slated for a significant and costly upgrade to address these problems. SNPR has taken this opportunity to engage with Seneca County to assess relocation of the discharge from Reeder Creek, or to consider the use of non-discharge alternatives like summer spray irrigation on vacant land. We are in dialogue with the County to help explore whether out of lake discharge may be more economical.
SNPR routinely exercises the public right to comment on NYSDEC point source discharge permitting (known as SPDES) for both municipal WWTP's and industrial discharges. SNRP has submitted comments on the proposed SPDES permits for the Penn Yan WWTP discharge, the Lockwood Landfill fly ash leachate discharge, and the Greenidge heated water discharge, all of which enter the Keuka Outlet stream before flowing into Seneca Lake. Formal comments to NYSDEC often makes the agency more aware of areas of concern on the lake and can result in setting more stringent permit conditions.
SNPR is also engaged in dialogue with NYSDEC to consider water quality re-classifications for zones on the lake that are not designated as AA (the highest protection standard). Reclassification of the three B designated zones (Geneva area, Watkins Glen area, and Dresden area) would result in tighter controls on pertinent discharges. SNPR will continue our mission to engage with municipalities, industry, and NYSDEC, to find reasonable and more economical solutions, to keep our lake “fishable, swimmable and drinkable” as required by the Federal Clean Water Act.
The Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association has formed a team consisting of board members and other highly qualified volunteers to launch the Sediment, Nutrient, and Pollution Reduction Program (SNPR). The SNPR program has a specific focus on reducing sediment and nutrients that negatively impact the water quality of Seneca Lake and its tributaries and will provide financial assistance to projects within the watershed that reduce these pollutants. Limiting other pollutants such as organic chemicals, bacteria, and heavy metals are also projects of interest.
“We can lessen nutrient loading by implementing cover crops, incentivizing farmers to use best management practices adjacent to streams, utilizing sediment retention and settling ponds, widening and stabilizing ditches near roadways as well as implementing a host of other stormwater control measures which have drastically helped elsewhere”, said Jake Welch, President of Pure Waters and Co-Chair of the new program. “Implementing such programs comes with some hefty price tags. Yet, with matching funds, we can meet that challenge head on”, he said.
The Seneca Lake watershed’s various land uses all contribute to the sediment and nutrient loading of the Lake, impacting the abundance of harmful algal blooms, nuisance weed growth, and altering the lake's available resources for aquatic life, among other things.
The SNPR program has already begun to partner with watershed protection entities to limit pollutant loading of Seneca Lake. The program has contributed $5000 to facilitate a $30,000 engineering study of the Keuka Outlet, with a plan to reconnect nearby canal beds which serve as wetlands and redirect high volume stormwater there.
The Keuka Outlet project is led by the Seneca Watershed Intermunicipal Organization, and partners include the Friends of the Outlet, Town of Geneva, and Yates County Soil and Water Conservation District, along with the Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association. The partnership and collaboration for watershed improvement projects is crucial and the SNPR program will meet with all Soil and Water Conservation Districts to identify additional projects for funding this month.
Two generous watershed residents have donated $15,000 to the program as matching funds and will be used to match incoming SNPR donations 1:1. Donations received for SNPR program will have a direct and often immediate impact on the improvement of Seneca Lake water quality. Please visit www.senecalake.org/donate to give to this program, where you can specify your donation as a matching gift.
by Maura Toole
Winter is coming and so are ice and snow. Our everyday winter de-icing actions can make a difference for protecting the water quality of Seneca Lake.
Sodium chloride (salt) is commonly used to keep our roads and walkways safe. Salt can also seep into the ground or runoff into streams and lakes where it impacts drinking water and the aquatic life of our lake. Here are a few chemical versions of de-icers that you may consider for your de-icing practices around your home. It is important to be sparing with salt application of any kind.
Rock salt (sodium chloride) is the most commonly used salt but it can contain cyanide, as an anti-caking agent that can be lethal to aquatic life, and is the most detrimental for plants.
Calcium chloride is considered a superior choice when compared to rock salt, because it does not contain cyanide, however, it can also damage plants.
Magnesium chloride is considered the least toxic de-icing salt because it contains less chloride than either rock salt or calcium chloride, making it safer for plants and animals.
Calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) is considered the best overall choice for safely melting ice. It is less toxic than de-icers containing chloride but can cost substantially more than rock salt.
There are also other non-chemical de-icing techniques to consider that keep walk walkways safe, while also minimizing pollution to our waterways. These products are considered better for the environment.
• Sugar Beet Juice is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to de-ice slippery surfaces. The juice from the sugar beets lowers the freezing point of ice and snow. It is safe for roads, plants, pets, concrete, and cars. The one downside is that the sugar beet juice, if it enters streams and lakes, can attract bacteria which can use up oxygen in water.
• Sand and coffee grounds, when applied on top of snow or ice, help absorb sunlight to melt snow and ice. They also provide traction. If you use sand, remember to sweep and collect it as soon as weather conditions permit as it can blow or wash into streams or lakes and cause some disturbance to aquatic habitat.
• Kitty litter is similar to coffee grounds and sand in that it will provide traction on slippery surfaces, though it will not melt the snow.
Other tips for snow and ice removal:
• Look for “pet safe” de-icing products. If a product is pet friendly, it is likely to be eco-friendly
• Apply de-icing products before a winter storm
• Disperse ice melt properly and continue to disperse during a storm.
• Clear as much snow and ice before applying de-icing products. Don’t use salt as a substitute for shoveling
• A mechanical spreader can help achieve proper coverage. The proper coverage rate is about one cup per square yard
We all can do more to protect our precious water quality. If we act together, we can collectively be the solution to winter pollution.
Visit www.senecalake.org/Lakefriendlyliving to learn more about the Pure Waters LFL program.
by Stevan Ramirez and Val Sewell
Please tell us a little about yourself and how you became a Pure Waters’ volunteer.
My name is Stevan Ramirez and I serve as a volunteer Harmful Algal Bloom (HABs) monitor, Neighborhood Ambassador, and member of the Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association events committee. My wife and I moved to Seneca Lake in November 2018 and soon after we joined Pure Waters. I became a HABs monitor starting in 2019 and later that year joined the events committee. In 2021, a new program was kicked off around the lake designating Neighborhood Ambassadors for the various neighborhoods around the lake.
Describe what you do as a HAB monitor.
I was provided in-depth, in-person training on what the roles and responsibilities are for a HAB monitor. The training provided all you needed to know on how to identify a HAB, how to collect, sample, and report the location of the HAB using your smart device. In my case, I use an iphone to access the software application (app) used by Pure Waters. In addition, I was provided materials to ensure that I was reporting the correct zone for my area of responsibility, brochures to educate the public, and sample bottles and gloves for collecting samples. I typically check my zone a couple of times per week depending on the weather. I do work alone in checking my area but at times I might be asked by another HAB monitor to come and help determine/verify whether or not a HAB has been found. In my neighborhood we have two other HAB monitors.
The app used to report a potential HAB is quite simple to use. Once you open the app, you fill in your email address, first and last name, the zone you are reporting (in my case it is zone 325), date and time, how much of the zone you surveyed stated in percentages, the extent of the HAB (is it small, large, localized or widespread), additional comments such as the weather conditions, and pictures uploaded directly from my iphone. The pictures provide the exact location of the HAB which is critical to the overall tracking of HABs for all of Seneca Lake. Once all the information is entered, you just tap the submit button and you are finished. You will receive an email confirming the submission.
Do you feel a sense of accomplishment with your volunteer work and how do you feel your volunteer work helps Seneca Lake and the community?
I am happy to volunteer to do my part in educating those that live on the lake or use the lake for recreational purposes. I believe it is important to keep our lake clean and healthy for generations to come. Most people I have met are open to hearing about the various initiatives that Pure Waters has undertaken to help Seneca Lake and the overall community. Being a volunteer has provided me the opportunity to learn how to do my part in keeping the lake clean which helps me to explain to my neighbors what they can do.
There are many volunteer opportunities in our community – what motivated you to volunteer for Seneca Pure Waters and this program in particular? What do you think other people should know about volunteering for this organization? Would you recommend others consider volunteering?
It was a no brainer to volunteer to be an HAB monitor given that we live on the lake full time. We like to swim in the lake with our dog Dublin and the fact that HABs can cause problem for humans and severe problems for pets was another compelling reason to volunteer. I was also interested in helping the events committee as part of the fundraising efforts to ensure the organization has enough money to put forth meaningful initiatives that will have a significant impact on the lake. There are many opportunities to volunteer for this organization and I would recommend a phone call with Kaitlin Fello, Pure Waters Association Director, to discuss your interest/talents and how much time you are willing to provide. Keep in mind that you do not have to live on the lake to be part of this organization. Seneca Lake, as well as all the Finger Lakes, belong to all of us and we need to collectively take care of them.
Please visit www.senecalake.org/volunteer to start the process of volunteering with Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association today.
By Bill Roege and Val Sewell
Harmful Algal Bloom Monitoring Program
My name is William (Bill) Roege. In addition to serving as a board member for the Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association, I serve as the Hazardous Algal Bloom (HAB) program director. I took over the HAB program in mid-2019, after serving as the assistant director for about 8 months, and started as a HAB monitor in 2017. I also do stream monitoring and am a backup for the Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program (CSLAP). My wife and I moved to the area full-time in October 2016, and joined Pure Waters at that time.
What are the main objectives of the HAB Monitoring Program?
The main objectives of the HABs program are to find HABs in order to notify the public as well as gather data for researchers. There are multiple aspects of the program. Shoreline monitoring volunteers look for HABs in designated zones and report them through a special software application (app), providing information about the size and extent of the HABs along with photos. We modified our sampling methods in 2020 when the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) dropped its sampling/testing program due to funding limitations and covid-19, so we now confirm HABs with photographic evidence with >90 accuracy. Incoming HAB Reports are automatically transferred to multiple spreadsheets and the data populates a map shown on the Pure Waters’ HAB webpage. Confirmed HABs are input into the New York statewide database maintained by DEC and then are visible on its map as well. We had 117 monitors in 2021, covering about 80% of the Seneca Lake shoreline.
We are also piloting an offshore reporting system, where volunteers can report blooms from anywhere on the lake. The system reads the location from the photo. We hope to expand that program in 2022.
We partner with Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS) for research. We have eight volunteer locations around the lake where HWS installs weather stations, water temperature gauges, and time lapse cameras on the eight dock. HWS collects the data and does extensive analysis to see if it can shed light on HAB causes and origins. This program is also used on other lakes and provides a comparison between lakes.
Why is the HAB Monitoring Program so important to you personally? What is your motivation for dedicating your time and talent to Seneca Pure Waters?
When moving to Seneca Lake from Virginia, a neighbor suggested I get involved with Pure Waters. I enjoy science, so participating in citizen science activities was a natural fit for me. Upon retiring, I wanted to give back to my new community. Seneca Lake is clearly the keystone for the local economy and as someone who grew up caring about the environment, helping make the lake better is an easy call.
Tell us about your role as a director for this program. What are your key responsibilities?
The director is responsible for everything about the program. Program direction, budgeting, recruiting, IT and data management, training, the Bloom Watch report, newsletter, etc. We have four Regional Coordinators who work directly with volunteers to ease the workload there. Winter is planning time, when we determine what activities to take on and settle on the budget. Spring is recruiting season, as well as setting up the reporting system and new databases. In early summer we train the volunteers. August through October constitutes the HAB monitoring season. We encourage the volunteers to get out and look for HABs and we do a weekly newsletter to inform the public. After the season, we analyze the data and set up educational events to talk about how the season went.
How is the collected data used to protect Seneca Lake?
Multiple state agencies and universities use our data to correlate with other data sets to try and better understand what is happening with HABs, not only on Seneca Lake, but in general. SLPWA-sponsored research at HWS results in an annual report on the findings. The program does not necessarily help protect the lake, but it does help protect people and pets from toxic algal blooms.
How can the public help?
We are always looking for volunteers, not only to check the shoreline, but to help administer the program. This is a very visible and satisfying program to be a part of. One does not need to live on the lake to contribute meaningfully. You can sign up to volunteer at anytime on our website, www.senecalake.org/volunteer .
by Jody Tyler
Is it easy? Not as easy as it should be. Is it convenient? It’s not convenient.
Is it worth it? You betcha. Once you begin to appreciate the environment around you, you start to notice many new things. Life tends to teach you more about how to take care of the things you love, and now the earth is added to that list of things.
It’s hard to unlearn and it’s hard to un-see. Some of the things that you notice are garbage on the side of the road, in a restaurant the server bringing you a styrofoam to-go container, finding yourself taking another route so you don’t have to smell the landfill close by. You notice when someone has a single use plastic water bottle or a plastic bag, knowing they were supposed to be outlawed, the overflowing garbage toters by the side of the road.
You also notice when you go to an event and they serve in compostable glasses, or when you have the choice to put your toss-away in a recycle or compostable bin, and the neighbor that only puts out a recycle bin for pick-up.
You find that you seek out the new product made from plant based materials, and those that have a home in biodegradable packaging, and you continue to look for that brand. These types of things become very important to you…and so, you are on your way to going green.
It’s a rewarding journey and you find yourself diving deep into what it’s really like to live a zero-waste life. In our society, it seems to be a lofty goal rather than a way of life. I am proud to say that I have only tossed away a couple bags of garbage in a couple years in my home. They mostly consisted of styrofoam containers that I accidentally purchased as packaging. My recycle bin, though, is often full. That would be perfect if I knew that the recyclables were to actually be recycled, and that plastic didn’t have a half-life.
Somehow more and more plastic is finding its way to the ocean...it’s best to avoid single use plastics as much as you can, for the health of you and the environment. My home is full of glass bottles, homemade cleaning supplies with ingredients such as vinegar, lemon juice, essential oils and peroxide. Most of the ingredient’s containers were made of plastic though, so I continually search for alternatives to the plastic packaging. Local stores like Marilla’s Mindful Solutions in Geneva make it easy to limit the purchase of items contained in plastic.
Some tips I have found that I love to pass on:
Don’t toss away your batteries! Please don’t! You can purchase a recycle bin on a website called Battery Recyclers of America that comes with a container to recycle the batteries in, prepaid postage to the recycle center, and a recycling certificate. If we choose to use batteries, I believe we need to take responsibility that they will be recycled. You can visit them at www.batteryrecyclersofamerica.com. I purchase a container almost yearly and I am happy to let my friends and family know to pass the old batteries on to me! More recycling options can by found on County websites, like the Ontario County Recycles website.
I would think it’s safe to assume that most of the odor from a landfill comes from food that could be composted. The methane that you smell is the gas that comes from rotting food. Why not turn it into healthy soil for our land instead? I have a small bucket in my kitchen that stores food waste until I venture a few roads over to the local compost pile. I am so fortunate to have a friend that owns the business and I can drop my compost off for free. There is a business on the West side of Seneca Lake called Finger Lakes Compost that actually comes to you! You can visit their website to see their pick-up schedules, prices, and a bit of inspiration! The EPA has a page devoted to composting basics https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home if you choose to try it in your own backyard!
Most grocery stores offer a plastic bag recycling bin near the entryway. Any clean and dry plastic bags can be recycled there. Think candy wrappers, pet food packaging, bread bags, saran wrap, zip lock bags, baggies and cereal bags. I save them in a special bag and put them in my car when it’s full to take them into the grocery store when it’s convenient.
Going green starts with small steps; it doesn't happen overnight. Be proud of yourself when making small commitments and be sure to tell your friends, family, children, and grandchildren of your “going-green” accomplishments.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” -The Lorax
Listen in to hear about the new Pure Waters' Sediment and Nutrient Reduction Program with Jake Welch with Finger Lakes Radio News.
2021 December J Welch Radio.mp3
Written by Peggy Focarino, Membership and Fundraising Chair
Seneca Lake Pure Waters’ Annual Appeal is in full swing and we need your support!
This past year alone, our volunteers have spent thousands of hours searching our lake for harmful algal blooms (HABS), monitoring streams, looking for aquatic invasive species, publishing monthly informational newsletters, expanding our Lake Friendly Living program, supporting our watershed’s 9-Element Plan, hosting educational webinars and so much more.
How did we do all of this? WITH YOUR support! Our efforts would come to a grinding halt without the funds that PURE WATERS receives from our community through memberships and donations. With your financial assistance, we will not only continue our important work, but will expand our efforts, building on the momentum of all of the work PURE WATERS has done this past year.
Please help us PRESERVE and PROTECT Seneca Lake by making your tax deductible donation today!
Click Here to Donate Now!
Listen in to the Pure Waters' November radio show with Ted Baker and HABs Director, Bill Roege as they discuss the HABs season and the Seneca lake levels.
November Radio Show
by Rich Adams
After seeing the lake level peak out at nearly 448’ ( level not seen in last 28 years), due to the late October torrential rain events, it is finally steadily falling towards winter levels prescribed by the NY State Canal Corporation. As of the publishing of this message, the lake level was just below 446.5’. Below is a current snap shot of the lake level monitor at Geneva.
Facilitating the lake level drawdown, Gravity Renewables, the hydro-electric facility owner on the Seneca Cayuga Canal, has opened all of its possible gates since the storms, passing maximum flows through the canal. Communications between Gravity and Pure Waters have been on going, and Gravity expects to keep all gates open until the end of the year. Below is a diagram showing the multiple release points at the hydro facility, and also a snapshot of the continuing high flows being releases through the canal at Seneca Falls.
At Keuka Lake, flows discharged into the Keuka Outlet are also being controlled now, as the lake levels there recede.
As can be seen from this current diagram of Seneca Lake levels, superimposed on our Rule Curve, lake levels are projected to approach desired winter levels by the end of the year, assuming the weather cooperates and current flow will management practices are observed.
Pure Waters will continue to monitor the levels and flow regimes throughout this trying time for lake residents. While we are not accustomed to seeing water levels at the “minor flood” levels lasting for so many weeks, we can at least be reassured that all involved entities are doing their best to get back to normal.
Keep up with Pure Waters:
Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association
P.O. Box 247
Geneva, NY 14456