Cayuga County elected officials and water quality advocates are calling on New York State to add Lake Owasco to an official list of degraded water bodies, a step that would require the state to develop a detailed clean-up plan.
The State Department of Environmental Conservation is accepting public comment until Friday, Feb. 11 for its latest proposed list of impaired waters that must be maintained under the federal clean water law. Lake Owasco, despite significant problems with harmful algal blooms in recent years, is not on the list.
Local advocates working on lake quality issues want that to change.
The Auburn City Council and the Cayuga County Water Quality Management Agency have both passed resolutions in recent weeks calling for Lake Owasco to be listed so that a cleanup plan supervised by the federal government called Total Maximum Daily Load could be developed and put into action.
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The Lake Owasco Watershed Management Board is also drafting a statement advocating change, and Owasco City Council will vote on a resolution this week, City Supervisor Ed Wagner told the Citizen. Owasco and Auburn are the legal providers of drinking water from the lake.
Advocacy for inclusion on the disability list comes as two other major lake quality initiatives near completion.
New rules and regulations for the watershed were approved by Owasco and Auburn in 2020, but still require final clearance from the state Department of Health. In addition, the Lake Owasco Watershed Management Board, which is made up of representatives from the municipalities in the watershed, is nearing completion of a nine-part watershed plan, another type of watershed reduction plan. pollution that state officials requested for Lake Owasco when HABs became an acute threat to drinking water supplies in 2016.
Resolutions from the Auburn City Council and the Cayuga County Water Quality Management Agency cited numerous issues affecting Lake Owasco in recent years, including the proliferation of HABs during the warmer months. which have made recreational use prohibited at certain times and in certain places and which have manifested themselves in the raw water entering the filtration plants.
At its meeting on Thursday, the Cayuga County Water Quality Management Board of Directors debated the merits of being added to the list of intoxicated persons.
Dan Welch, board member and associate director of the Cayuga Cornell County Cooperative Extension Office, questioned whether putting Lake Owasco on the list undermines other efforts.
“(Are we saying) we don’t think the 9E plan and rules and regulations are enough?” He asked. “A TMDL would be above rules and regulations and a 9E.”
“I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive,” said Steve Lynch, board member, director of planning and economic development for Cayuga County. “I think these are complementary efforts.”
Board member Doug Kierst, who is the executive director of the Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District, wondered if the list of impaired waters and the development of a TMDL are going too far. far.
“How many levels of regulation do we need to protect water bodies? he asked, noting that Auburn and Owasco’s filtration systems have kept HABS out of treated water that reaches consumers.
“The way this resolution sounds, we shouldn’t even step into the streams because they’re so bad,” he said. “I mean, we always seem to be fighting to be on these lists all the time people are trying to get off the lists. Are we seeing ghosts?”
Cayuga County board member and director of environmental health, Eileen O’Connor, noted that in addition to HABs in recreational waters, disinfection byproducts have been elevated in several municipal systems that draw Lake Owasco water in recent years due to high levels of organic matter.
“There are real potential health impacts,” she said. “It’s something that is a concern that needs to be addressed.”
The board approved the resolution by a vote of 6 to 2, with Welch and Kierst voting against.
The Auburn City Council vote, held Jan. 20, was unanimous in asking the state to provide a TDML for Lake Owasco.
“It’s another tool in the tool shed and I see no compelling reason not to support it,” Councilor Ginny Kent said.
Councilman Jimmy Giannettino referenced a phrase in the city resolution that cited a state constitutional amendment approved by voters in November that added the right to clean air and clean water.
“We don’t have to say it anymore, we have a fundamental right – it’s codified in New York State law – to clean air and clean water,” he said. declared. “All we’re asking is that the governor make sure this happens. I hope she listens.”
Jeremy Boyer can be reached at (315) 282-2231 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @CitizenBoyer