In 1990 Howard Kimball, Seneca Lake resident and local businessman, organized a group of people to establish an association to protect Seneca Lake’s water quality. Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association was incorporated in 1991 with a start-up grant of $70,000. The group hired an Executive Director, Mary Ruth Sweet, and agreed to partner with Hobart and William Smith Colleges which would serve as the research arm of the organization.
A member of the organizing group, Ed Hoffman, helped to obtain incorporation as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. A volunteer Board of Directors representing the various interests around the lake was formed.
From its inception, the association was determined not to go it alone and was successful in forming partnerships with SUNY Oneonta, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC), Open Spaces Trust, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Citizen’s Statewide Lake Association Program (CSLAP) as well as other organizations.
SLPWA’s data collection efforts enabled it to inform the public on a number of issues including sources of contamination, treatment of invasive species, lake level concerns, and methods to remediate threats to lake water quality. Threats included non-source pollution, run-off from farms and individual septic systems, and road bank erosion. Several scientific studies were published including: reports on salinity levels and sources, limnology studies, hazardous waste sites, fracking, LPG storage, recommended changes to municipal land use ordinances, mapping of Seneca Lake’s 29 sub watersheds, recommendations for uniform onsite waste water management, and an environmental risk survey.
Significant achievements were accomplished by 1999 a comprehensive summary assessment titled The State of the Seneca Lake Watershed was published and the Finger Lakes Institute (FLI) at Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS) was established.
After ten years of service SLPWA began to decline in membership and funding. A reorganization committee was formed led by Richard Ahola and with the assistance of Bob Barton, Jim Carter, Mary Anne Kowalski, Bruce Adams, Phil Cianciotto and others they implemented substantial changes to the organization’s structure and finances. They eliminated all paid positions and all organizational and communication responsibilities were assumed by volunteer members of the board. The first annual dinner meeting was held in the fall 2009 and has continued every year since then.
Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association continues to study the quality of the lake and its tributaries in the watershed with the assistance of over 100 volunteers, funding from the Tripp Foundation and laboratory analysis by the Community Science Institute (CSI) based in Ithaca. Additional projects, such as Shoreline Monitoring to identify cyanobacteria or harmful algae blooms and Lake Monitoring through the CSLAP program have been added in an effort to compile a comprehensive all encompassing water quality assessment.