Almanack Contributor Ry Rivard

Ry Rivard


Friday, September 25, 2020

Making the case for water reporting

You care about the Adirondacks, its woods, waters and people. That’s why you’re reading the Explorer (and its sister site the Adirondack Almanack), on top of everything else going on in the world.

Like the park, the Explorer is a special place. Last year, it hired me to come write about water — so abundant here we might just take it for granted.

As beautiful and seemingly protected as that water is, I’ve reported how that beauty and those protections only run so deep. There’s pollution we can’t see and problems we haven’t fixed, like the contamination caused by road salt or the sewage slowly fouling up Lake George.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, September 13, 2020

Reporter’s notebook: ‘Climate change is water change’

Boreas River headwaters. Photo by Phil Brown 9/5/16.These weekly emails are supposed to come “out of the notebook,” a journalism term for something in my notes that hasn’t made it into a story.

Right now, I’m still working on my next stories and it’s hard to say what in my notebook will or won’t make it. So, let me share a few concepts that are important to our coverage here, particularly mine.

First, since I spend my time writing about water, I think a lot about what climate scientist Brad Udall says: climate change is water change.

 

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, September 6, 2020

When the water turns green

A handful of harmful algae blooms have struck the Adirondacks this summer, according to state environmental regulators.

Many blooms are inconvenient and ugly, but some are the product of toxic cyanobacteria that are often called and mistaken for algae. Without lab results, it’s impossible to know which is which, but officials tend to err on the side of caution now.

Inside the park’s boundaries, the state has identified five blooms it labels harmful, meaning not just icky but risky for people swimming in or drinking from the water. That figure, though, is sort of an undercount because it doesn’t include other blooms along Lake Champlain that are tracked by officials in Vermont.

separate bloom tracker for Lake Champlain shows a series of blooms along the edge of the Adirondacks and the lake, though the ones happening now have been labeled “generally safe.”

» Continue Reading.


Saturday, August 29, 2020

A salty subject

This past Tuesday, the Explorer hosted our first public event of the COVID era — a Zoom panel discussion with Dan Kelting, the head of the Adirondack Watershed Institute of Paul Smith’s College.

We focused on something Kelting has been studying for a decade and I’ve been reporting on all year: road salt and what it does to drinking water supplies in the Adirondacks.

Kelting dived into the issue years ago, first to roundup what was known about road salt pollution elsewhere and then to find out what it was doing to the Adirondacks. In sum, too much salt running off roads ends up in waterways. There, it harms humans by messing with heart and kidney function, destroys plumbing and upends ecosystems.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, August 17, 2020

Road salt and lawsuits

When Americans try to work something out but fail, we head to court.

But that option isn’t available for many long-suffering New Yorkers with water made undrinkable by road salt.

Road salt has been a known threat to the environment and human health for decades. Yet, the state of New York, which applies about as much per mile of roadway as any other state, depending on the year, has done little to prevent, clean up or truly quantify much of the problem.

That has stood out to me in several months of reporting on how road salt is fouling up water in and around the Adirondacks. The scale of the problem is so uncertain that hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers may have salty water without even knowing it.

But when they do find out, they have a heck of a time trying to make things right.

» Continue Reading.


Friday, July 31, 2020

Trying to keep a lid on Lake George pollution

In the latest action trying to spare Lake George from turning green, the lake’s main regulatory agency is proposing new rules to curb runoff from lakeside development, including a ban on lawn fertilizer within 50 feet of the lake.

The Lake George Park Commission recently posted its new stormwater regulations, which have been several years in the making, and is accepting feedback for the next two months. Stormwater is the term environmental regulators use for rain and snowmelt that sweeps pollution into streams, lakes and the ocean.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Water, water everywhere, but still the need to conserve

Colleen rows the boat on Long Lake by Alexandra RoalsvigWhile recent rains have helped some parts of the Adirondacks, other parts are stuck in a dry spell that began with the mild winter.

On Tuesday, the Town of Long Lake told residents to stop washing their cars and watering their lawns to conserve water.

Long Lake’s water superintendent, Keith Austin, said a dry spell left the town unable to keep up with current demand. The system serves about 800 full-time residents and a seasonal population of 2,000 people in a typical year.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, July 9, 2020

Check your flood risk

New national maps suggest flood risk is far higher than most people realize, in New York and across the country.

In some Adirondack counties, thousands more properties are considered at risk of flooding than federal flood estimates have shown, according to data by First Street Foundation, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit.

The group released a simple online tool, called Flood Factor, that lets people look up their flood risk by address. The website is part of a growing body of work by data scientists trying to reckon with the risk of disasters, like floods and fires, that occur at the boundary of development and nature.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, July 5, 2020

Report puts focus on Upper Hudson

When people talk about the Hudson River and its problems, my mind immediately goes to the GE cleanup of toxic waste around Fort Edward and Hudson Falls.

There are problems closer to home, though. The river, after all, begins atop Mount Marcy. It flows off as Feldspar Brook and turns into the Opalescent River before becoming the Hudson.

All along the 7.5 million acres that drain into the river before it reaches Troy, the part known as the Upper Hudson, are threats to the river and its natural flow. The lingering effects of acid rain that make fish dangerous to eat. Road salt. Eroding stream banks. The habitat disruption caused by even small dams.

» Continue Reading.


Saturday, June 20, 2020

Tracking the salt

snow plow courtesy DOTOver the past several months, as we’ve investigated road salt pollution in homeowners’ water, we’ve been keeping an eye out for lab tests that show salt getting into town and village water supplies.

It stood to reason that since road salt can run off roads into private wells, it could also get into water supplies used by larger public drinking water systems.

But tracking the spread of salt is complicated because of uneven testing by public water systems across upstate New York. The state’s Department of Health decides which contaminants public water suppliers have to test for each year.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, June 7, 2020

Dam failure and implications for the Adirondacks

former marcy damRecent dam failures in Michigan are a reminder that humanity’s efforts to hold back rising water with aging infrastructure are not guaranteed to succeed.

The Michigan case, where two dams on the same river failed, makes it hard to point fingers at a single problem. But it provides a particularly well-documented example of what happens when a privately owned dam isn’t maintained. In a blistering piece that appeared in Slate, a former native of Midland writes about the history and current owners of one of the failed dams. The full piece is worth reading because it shows how a private dam owner can avoid making upgrades until it’s too late.

Regulatory failure is also usually a factor in dam failure: In Michigan, there are two dam safety staffers for the whole state and 2,500 dams, the Detroit Free Press reported. In New York, as of 2018, there were 11 staffers looking out for more than 5,800 dams.

» Continue Reading.


Saturday, April 4, 2020

Your help needed in obtaining water quality reports

Collecting water quality data from Fawn Lake(Calling all citizen scientists! The following is from Water Line, a weekly newsletter by Adirondack Explorer water reporter Ry Rivard.)

Late last year, I began requesting documents from the state of New York to help me understand who around the Adirondacks may be drinking potentially unsafe water.

While larger communities in the state of New York post their annual drinking water quality reports online, not all smaller communities do this.

New York is notoriously slow in responding to requests for public records. To give state officials the benefit of the doubt, it’s a big state and a lot of people want to know things about it. The other explanation is that government officials like to control information, particularly information that might scare people or make themselves look bad.

» Continue Reading.



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