Marinas on Lake George and Lake Placid (and on every other “AA-Special” waterbody in New York State) must start complying with national clean water regulations that require run-off from boat decontaminations, fluid changes and any other so-called industrial activities to be treated on site.
According to Bob Stegemann, regional director of the Department of Environmental Conservation, the federal government’s Clean Water regulations “do not allow for direct discharge of storm water to groundwater. It needs to be either eliminated or controlled or treated as point source pollution.”
Class AA-Special waters — the highest rating for fresh water awarded – are defined by the DEC as waters used for drinking, recreation and fishing. Waters classified AA or A are used as a source of drinking water. The DEC is in the process of drafting new regulations that will define the scope of the mandate.
At the same time, Lake George marinas must also begin developing plans to treat storm water generated by all buildings and parking lots on the properties. Dave Wick, the executive director of the Lake George Park Commission, said marina owners and managers must start retrofitting their properties to treat stormwater runoff “to the maximum extent practicable.” Compliance with the new requirement will be a condition of the Commission’s approval of a marina’s renewed permit, Wick said.
“In an effort to proactively improve runoff from regulated marina facilities, Lake George Park Commission staff has been meeting with all marina owners to discuss stormwater improvements to those properties. The marinas have been supportive of this initiative, understanding the benefit to the lake, which is their bread and butter,” said Wick.
The new DEC regulations are the direct result of a lawsuit filed last spring in New York State Supreme Court against the DEC by the Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance organizations. The organizations said that New York State’s SPDES Multi-Sector General Permit failed to enforce federal clean water regulations and the state’s own laws.
Among other things, the organization stated, the permit authorized industrial facilities to discharge polluted stormwater into waterbodies classified by DEC as “AA-Special” waters. Industrial discharges of waste into this class of waters is not permitted. Daniel E. Estrin, Waterkeeper Alliance’s General Counsel and Advocacy Director said, “The permit illegally allowed discharges of industrial waste into our most iconic and treasured lakes, such as Lake George and Lake Placid.”
Chris Navitsky, whose Lake George Waterkeeper program is part of the Waterkeeper Alliance, said although he did not join the lawsuit against DEC, he supported its objectives. “The new regulations will offer better protections of Lake George and other “AA-Special” waterbodies. Any measure that we put into place to reduce storm water runoff is a positive one,” said Navitsky.
Marina owners, local government officials, boat dealers and representatives of environmental and trade organizations were among those who met with DEC officials in Warrensburg on October 9 to discuss the new regulations.
According to one person who attended the meeting, the consensus among marina owners and boat dealers appeared to be that the new regulations could not be successfully opposed; some flexibility, however, might be granted to businesses as they sought to comply with the new regulations before the summer 2020 deadline.
Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover stated in his written comments on the new regulations, “As our marinas are such an important part of our economy, it is imperative that every consideration be afforded to them as they attempt to comply with new regulations. Most are small, family-owned, largely seasonal businesses and we should not under-estimate the challenges they face when dealing with regulatory changes.”
Conover urged the DEC to conduct outreach programs with the affected businesses to assist them in their efforts to comply with the new regulations and to extend the deadline for compliance, if necessary.
Photo of Lake George boating by John Warren.