Our Pure Waters team is very proud of our accomplishments over this past year, despite all the challenges we read about each and every day. Efforts of over 200 volunteers went above and beyond to deliver on our promise of preserving, protecting and promoting Seneca Lake water quality. Major progress was made, on both the Citizen Science side of our organization, as well as within our Operations Committees and Teams. A high-level summary of some our major achievements is summarized below:
Seneca Lake PURE WATERS Association
is here to Preserve, Protect, and Promote
Seneca Lake water quality for ALL who have
the privilege of knowing it.
Like all other volunteer organizations, we look forward to a more normal 2021. We know this will not happen early in the year, so we will utilize our “lessons learned” in 2020 to make sure we do not miss a beat again this year. Your continued financial support through donations and participation in Pure Waters events will be critical to our success. Thank you in advance for supporting our efforts to protect the lake that we all enjoy so much.
Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association engages with many partner organizations in pursuit of its mission to preserve, protect, and promote Seneca Lake water quality. This past year, Seneca Pure Waters had the opportunity to work with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Yates County to promote harmful algal bloom (HAB) education and awareness.
About the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Yates County
Since 1913, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Yates County (CCEYC) has responded to the needs of residents with unbiased, research-based information, tools and education that people have come to depend on and trust. Its programs are developed in direct response to community input and are based on the most current information available from Cornell and other Land Grant universities from across the nation.
The mission of Cooperative Extension is to enable people to improve their lives and communities through partnerships that put experience and research knowledge to work. Extension staff and trained volunteers deliver education programs, conduct applied research, and encourage community and university collaborations. Our educators connect people with the information they need on topics such as commercial and consumer agriculture; nutrition and health; youth and families; finances; and sustainable natural resources. Our ability to match university resources with community needs helps us play a vital role in the lives of individuals, families, businesses and communities throughout Yates County.
Friend of Extension Award
As many have seen, a lawsuit has been recently filed against the Town of Torrey in order to stop an expansion of the Greenidge bitcoin mining operation in Dresden.
Seneca Guardian, the Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes and several residents near the plant are listed as plaintiffs in that action. Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association is not so involved, and we believe you should know why.
To first explain, our organization has been in the forefront of opposing Greenidge and its threat to our lake. For example, Pure Waters addressed both the Town of Torrey Planning Board as well as the Town Board at multiple public meetings in strong opposition of the expansion. Pure Waters also filed written opposition with the Public Service Commission (PSC) before its approval allowing Greenidge to convert from just generating power for peak grid energy demand to private bitcoin mining. I have also personally participated in numerous joint meetings with Seneca Guardian and The Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes (CPFL) to gather public support to stop Greenidge and discuss how this operation (1) discharges super warm water into the Keuka Outlet and (2) lacks protective fish screens at its intake.
Finally, our organization has also personally met with the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to present our concerns of the Greenidge operation and have asked that a long overdue thermal study be conducted.
Why then are we not in the lawsuit? There are multiple reasons. To begin with, while we were active in the public forums, being adversaries in litigation was a risk we wanted to avoid. To explain, we are tasked this year with helping the Seneca Watershed Intermunicipal Organization (SWIO) achieve a fair share payment for our lake steward, Ian Smith. It may not be best to be suing one of the lake townships and at the same time asking for financial help to support Ian (who is vital to completing our Nine Element Plan and a whole lot more) from the other municipalities around the lake.
Likewise, the Town of Torrey was receptive to our past plea to adopt a septic inspection law. We want that positive working relationship to grow and prosper even if we may, at times, differ on opinions.
Finally, we analyzed the purpose of the suit as far as the overall scheme of things. The complaint claims proper procedures were not followed regarding the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process. In particular, the Town Planning Board should not have taken over as the SEQR lead agency and failed to take proper steps to assume that role. That is in line with what Pure Waters was claiming at the public meetings. Certainly, a lake-wide problem should have been handled by a broader agency like the DEC.
However, the planning board would not listen to our plea and would not let the DEC study the proposal and approve it before any expansion occurred. While we are 100 percent behind that position, unfortunately, lawsuits can take years to complete. As there will not be a temporary restraining order to stop building the expansion during the action’s pendency, the case may never actually achieve its objective.
Thus, we are putting our efforts toward political pressure and solutions as well as DEC interventions Whether we are in the lawsuit or not will not affect those efforts and may, in fact, enhance them.
In showing our ongoing support of the cause, you will see a link below to the letter we, and the other mentioned environmental groups, are sending to our governor asking he take action against Greenidge in the form of curtailing permits. That would leverage the company into installing water cooling facilities and fish screens. We are also working on another similar letter to state and federal representatives asking for their help in curtailing this threat to our lake.
What can you do to help? Send in the letter, simply by the press of a button, and show your concern. It will be automatically recorded for head counts much as would be a formal petition.
If you have further questions send them along by email to email@example.com. With your help, we can strategically address this project that threatens the health of our priceless Seneca Lake.
Business and Organizational leaders Sign On - Click Here
Individuals sign on - Click Here
We are suggesting that organizations (and their membership as individuals) sign on to BOTH letters in an effort to gain as many signatories as possible, and asking them to share with their mailing lists and other groups.
It is January—a quiet time of year when people often reflect on what they want to do in the new year to improve themselves, their homes, and their communities. How about something just outside your front door or backyard window that will positively impact all three?
As a watershed resident, a few simple and easy lawn care and landscaping activities can enhance your home, help protect your drinking water source, and give you a good feeling of being part of a much-needed community effort to protect and preserve our lake.
The Seneca Lake Pure Waters Lake Friendly Living program provides you with ideas to make simple changes that you can start to plan now for implementation in the Spring and Summer. These practices all help minimize pollutant carrying run-off that eventually moves into Seneca Lake. Below are just a few ideas and resources. Learn more at www.senecalake.org/lakefriendlyliving.
2. Keep leaves and lawn clippings out of ditches, storm drains, streams, and the lake
3. Arrange a septic inspection (Ont. County: https://www.ontswcd.com/septic-system-programs)
4. Plant a tree, shrub, or ground cover. Check out your county Soil and Water Conservation Districts for economical tree and shrub seedling sales and planting help. (www.ontswcd.com & www.senecacountyswcd.org) Note: After a rainstorm, walk your yard and look for areas of water pooling. These are key areas to consider for plantings to minimize run-off.
Want to act now? Remove snow and ice the lake friendly way!
Salt mines in Watkins Glen and Seneca Lake tributaries (streams) contribute to the salinity. It's important that every household plays a part in protecting water quality by minimizing or eliminating use of salt to melt snow and ice.
Alternate solutions include:
This will avoid compaction and therefore slick surfaces. Sunshine the following days will allow for snow to melt more rapidly if there are not multiple inches of snow on hard surfaces.
2. Use alternate melting/traction methods.
Materials such as cat litter, sand, sawdust, and Magic Salt are all proven methods to eliminate the use of salt to deal with snow and ice. Try one of these readily available items!
3. Limit spaces that need snow removal.
Reduce the need to use salt by minimizing extra walkways and driveway space that lead to rarely used entryways. Don't worry, they'll still be there in the Spring!
Share your project stories with us! We would like to showcase the activities of watershed residents to help others learn and take action around their homes that can positively impact Seneca Lake. Please tag us with projects you share on social media @senecalakepurewaters on Instagram and @SLPWA on Facebook, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Listen in to Maura Toole, Pure Waters Board Member and Lake Friendly Living as she describes looking forward to 2021 and how you can become involved.
January, 2021 Radio Recording - Maura Toole.mp3
December 3, 2020 by Editorial Staff
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed into law the Randy Preston Road Salt Reduction Act – a bipartisan bill that is expected to help reduce road salt pollution and protect drinking water in the Adirondack Park.
The legislation creates an Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force and Pilot Program. The new law establishes a salt-reduction pilot program from October 2021 through 2024 to test alternative measures already shown to work better and cost less than current winter road maintenance practices. Proponents of the new law say that highway safety remains the top priority.
The Adirondack Park is the largest park in the contiguous United States and is the largest intact, temperate deciduous forest in the world. It also includes 130 small, rural communities alongside protected wild lands areas.
The Adirondack Park contains more than 11,000 lakes and ponds, and more than 30,000 miles of rivers, brook and streams and is the source of most of the state’s rivers. The park’s hard bedrock, thin soils and steep slopes make it the place where road salt damage – like acid rain damage – is likely to appear first. Advocates of the law say lessons learned in the Adirondacks can be applied statewide in the years ahead.
Greenidge Generation’s Operation Presents Significant Risk to the Health of Seneca Lake
Written by Jake Welch, Pure Waters President
Excessive thermal pollution and lack of fish protection screens present serious hazards to the health of Seneca Lake and are strongly opposed by Seneca Pure Waters together with other environmental groups. This article provides important information about the impact of current and proposed operations of the Greenidge Generation company that have, or may have, a significant negative impact on Seneca Lake and makes recommendations to prevent further damage.
Greenidge Generation Background
Located in Dresden, the Greenidge Generation power facility obtained approval in September 2016, to operate a natural gas-fueled 106 megawatt (MW) electrical generation facility from the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC). With this approval, Greenidge was also provided a “lightened regulatory regime” by the PSC based on the premise of providing electrical power and thereby serving the public good. In January 2020, Greenidge filed a petition with the PSC to use its power generation as the sole source of electricity for one of its on-site commercial tenants. In actuality, this “tenant” turned out to be Greenidge’s own bitcoin mining operation. Bitcoin mining is the business of verifying cryptocurrency transactions using high-powered computational processing. Even if Greenidge were to mine only five bitcoins, it would produce some $90,000 in daily revenue based on recent market conditions. None of this mining does anything to serve the public good. Rather it produces personal profit for Greenidge and its billion-dollar parent company, Atlas Holdings.
How does the Greenidge operation affect Seneca Lake?
Bitcoin mining requires extensive electrical power and vast amounts of water, all of which is drawn out of Seneca Lake. Per its current Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) permit, Greenidge is shockingly allowed to intake some 134,000,000 gallons of water per day out of Seneca Lake. The permit also allows this volume of water to be warmed to a temperature level of 108°F in the summer and up to 86°F in the winter before being discharged back into the environment (DEC permit dated 10/1/17). This permitted level was granted based on plant operations occurring many years ago . Additionally, the water intake is in an area occupied by fish. Screens have not been installed at the intake to protect native fish populations. This is in derogation of Title 33 United States Code 1326(b) of the Clean Water Act (33 USC 1326(b)).
Concerns of Seneca Pure Waters and other environmental organizations
There are currently 4 key areas of significant concern.
1. Lack of required studies to show the impact on lake
The liberal allowance of the DEC permit occurred during a situation where the plant was to provide a public benefit and, therefore lightened regulation. However, the DEC must have had serious environmental concerns as it charged Greenidge with the task of updating a thermal discharge study that had been filed by previous plant owners back in 2011. The updated environmental investigation was to include “field studies, thermal modeling and submission of an approvable thermal criteria study report”. The report was to be submitted within one year of a schedule approved by the DEC. One would surmise the study would be completed close to the 12 months following issuance of the permit. Under circumstances which have not been made available, nor clear, neither the schedule nor the thermal study report has ever come to fruition. In fact, during this past year Greenidge provided a letter stating it would not provide a thermal study until sometime in the spring of 2022. This would be some five years after the State DEC permit issuance indicating the need for thermal study in the upcoming year or so.
2. Greenidge’s expected plans for expansion
This past year, Greenidge submitted plans for a significant increase in its mining operations that would add four more buildings to form a “data center “. The buildings will house an increased number of computers and require more energy to be produced at the plant. In turn, there will also be more thermal warming of water placed back into Seneca Lake.
3. Documented evidence of current impact
Title 6 – New York Code of Rules and Regulations, Part 704.2 B (2) (6 NYCRR 704.2 B (2)) mandates that no thermal discharge over 70°F shall be permitted at any time for water bodies classified as trout streams. Under that same regulation, temperatures are not to be raised more than 2° from June to September and not more than 5° in the remaining months of the year. These numbers should be presumed as proper standards establishing what is and what is not thermal pollution for the waters of New York State, inclusive of the Keuka Outlet where Greenidge discharges millions of gallons of water per day.
What has been recorded from discharge directly into the Keuka Outlet showed temperature readings in the late summer/early fall of 2020 near 90°F and others near 100°F. These temperature readings also indicated the stream temperature being raised multiple times beyond the 2°F maximum allowed. These extreme temperatures threaten the reproductive abilities of trout which are dependent on colder stream waters. In addition, the lack of protective screens at the point of water intake threaten all fish populations.
4. Harmful algal blooms on Seneca Lake
Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are associated with excessive water warming. Other than in the past year, where there was a statewide drought, the area just north of the Keuka outlet has been tagged by Pure Water’s monitors as a hotspot due to recurrent blooms occurring in that area. Clearly a prompt and thorough environmental study should be conducted to evaluate the impact of these plant operations. Putting this off to the year 2022 is not an acceptable answer and draws concerns as to whether that will even occur.
SLPWA's 2021 fundraising pitch: There are more threats to the lake than ever
GENEVA — The president of Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association has issued a warning as the organization begins its annual fundraising campaign.
“(Many parts of the largest of the 11 Finger Lakes) have been completely turned green by toxic algae due to increased nutrient loading and global warming,” said Jacob Welch, who lives in the Yates County hamlet of Himrod. “In addition, some nearby lakes have been overcome by weeds such as the dreaded hydrilla. We really should up our game in protecting this lake, not just as a source of recreation, but also as a way of keeping our local economy strong.”...
Read More here
Listen to the story of the HABs season on Seneca Lake with Ted Baker and Bill Roege, Pure Waters HAB Program Director
Click Here for Recording
Keep up with Pure Waters:
Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association
P.O. Box 247
Geneva, NY 14456