Wednesday, July 3, 2024

DEC issues Notice of Violation to North Country Dairy for contributing to outbreak of sewer fungus in Deer River

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On July 2, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued a Notice of Violation to North Country Dairy for contributing to the contravention of State water quality standards. In addition to the enforcement action, DEC undertook a detailed technical review of North Country Dairy’s wastewater and treatment technologies to ensure pending modifications to the facility’s permit protect the receiving water.

“Immediately following the outbreak of Leptomitus lacteus in the Deer River, DEC experts launched an investigation to identify its underlying causes, resulting in the enforcement action announced today,” Region 6 Director Randall Young said. “Our team will continue to take appropriate action to restore and protect the river and the surrounding community.”

DEC conducted an investigation to identify and address the causes of growth commonly called sewer fungus in the Deer River in St. Lawrence County. In addition to conducting regular inspections of permitted facilities in the area, DEC’s investigation included field observations, data collection, and water quality analysis throughout a stretch of the Deer River in the vicinity of the hamlet of North Lawrence. The investigation also considered environmental conditions, known permitted dischargers to the river, and the potential for previously unknown discharges.

The investigation identified the presence of Leptomitus lactus starting at the North Country Dairy outfall, combined with water quality data from the Deer River, and specifically high total phosphorus, orthophosphate, total nitrogen, and ammonia in the impacted stretch of water, demonstrating the North Country Dairy’s permitted discharge is the primary contributor to the growth in the river.

DEC is committed to requiring facilities across the state to fully comply with permit conditions and to ensuring permits are adequate to achieve water quality standards in receiving streams to protect public health and the environment. DEC continues to monitor North Country Dairy for compliance with all applicable laws, policies, and regulations and will evaluate the necessity for additional enforcement steps while assessing appropriate cleanup actions.

Deer River is not regulated by New York State Department of Health (DOH). DEC reminds the public to follow the guidance suggested by DOH when choosing to recreate in the river.

This includes:

  • Do not swallow water and consider keeping your face and head out of the water when swimming. This reduces the chance of getting sick from bacteria, parasites or other microorganisms that can enter your body through your mouth, eyes, ears, and nose;
  • Avoid swimming in cloudy or discolored water as it may contain microorganisms that can make people sick, and it can make it harder to see underwater dangers;
  • Wash your hands after swimming, especially before eating, and shower when you are done swimming for the day; and
  • Be extra careful near any dams or large boats because they can create undertows and dangerous currents. Never cross safety wires and other water hazard markers when near dams.

DOH’s Health Advice on Eating Sportfish and Game provides advice to anglers about what fish are safe to eat and how often.

Consumption advisories, based on chemical contaminants, specific to St. Lawrence County are found on the DOH website.

For those concerned about eating fish from the Deer River, DEC recommends DOH’s Tips for Healthier Eating. These tips provide information on how to reduce exposure and consumption of chemical contaminants and fish pathogens (e.g., bacteria, viruses, parasites).

Tips to avoid fish pathogens include:

  • Keeping harvested fish cold;
  • Wearing protective gloves when skinning and trimming;
  • Washing hands and surfaces when preparing fish, and keeping raw foods separate; and
  • Cooking fish and shellfish thoroughly before eating.

Anglers can also consider catch and release fishing. Anglers should review the Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guide before heading out on the water.

Photo at top: NYS DEC website photo.

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Information attributed to NYSDEC is taken from press releases and news announcements from New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation.

One Response

  1. Bearclaw says:

    Why did the dec give them a permit to dump sewage in the first place? Is that standard procedure across the state? Obviously they are just a much to blame in this situation.

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