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.