Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association began its stream monitoring efforts in the spring of 2014.
The intent of this program is to provide certified laboratory data on pollutants entering Seneca Lake via the streams, and to communicate that information in a manner that results in remedial actions over time. To achieve this purpose a partnership with the Community Science Institute (CSI) of Ithaca, NY was created since they maintain a state-certified laboratory and have a long history of stream monitoring efforts in the Cayuga Lake watershed. In collaboration with CSI, over 80 volunteers have been trained in site selection and sampling techniques.
The program began with the monitoring of Catherine Creek, Big Stream, and Reeder Creek. In 2015 and 2016 Keuka Outlet and Kashong Creek were added. Volunteers conduct sampling on 3-6 sites on each of these streams several times each season. Sites have been added to some streams to better identify the sources of high pollutant levels. Sampling high flow storm events is difficult, but very important due to the high levels of pollutants that occur during these times. High pollutant levels, coupled with high flow into the lake, make these events a key contributor to the pollution of Seneca Lake. Volunteers also aid in the data analysis, drawing of conclusions, and presentation of the information.
Stream monitoring reveals that:
- Total nitrogen concentrations are elevated in predominantly agricultural areas.
- E. coli counts are above the recreational limit at base flow. However, there are extraordinary rises in E. coli counts at time of high flows, by a factor of as much as 100. High E. coli counts point to the presence of significant sources of untreated animal and/or human waste that is readily mobilized in runoff.
- Dissolved (mostly bioavailable) phosphorusconcentrations average roughly 2x to 3x higher in Seneca Lake streams than in Cayuga Lake streams. High phosphorus levels are broadly correlated with increased HABs in freshwater lakes. Shoreline concentrations of dissolved Phosphorus are likely to be elevated near the mouths of many streams.