Posts Tagged ‘water line’

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Storm water and sewers

Several times a year, usually following a heavy rain, sewage that has not been fully treated overwhelms the Ticonderoga treatment plant and flows into the La Chute River, and shortly after that, into Lake Champlain. (Check out an overview of the latest “State of the Lake” report here)

There’s nothing secret about it; the town sends out email alerts whenever it happens. The Department of Environmental Conservation allows it, up to a point. If there are too many rain storms and too many overflows, the town is fined because, well, you can’t assess a fine on God.

Ticonderoga is not alone. A half century ago, communities saw no reason not to mix sewage and storm water and send it all to the treatment plant, and that worked until more development led to more effluent, which in time exceeded sewer-plant capacity.

The growth, however, has not been sufficient to pay for sewer plant expansion. Small communities in tourist areas lack enough people among whom to divide up the cost of expanded capacity. Also, sending flow through a treatment plant comes at a cost, and treating clean water makes little financial sense.

The Ticonderoga story has a happy ending, however. Within the next few weeks the town will “throw the switch” on an $8 million project primarily designed to separate storm water from sanitary sewer effluent. The storm water will be channeled into a “day stream” that is dry except in times of high water. It will receive some basic treatment for removal of trash and litter before being diverted to the river. The rainwater will not go through the treatment plant, which will be freed up to do the job in which it was intended.

Storm water, of course, has its own issues and its own set of needs. But municipalities are coming to understand that storm water and sewer flow are two different things.

Top: Highway and water supervisor Jason Monroe, left, and Town Supervisor Craig Leggett discuss water and sewer needs in the town of Chester. Photo by Cindy Schultz

Editor’s note: This first appeared in the Explorer’s weekly Water Line newsletter. Click here to sign up.


Wednesday, October 6, 2021

The secret life of water

At the recently opened Essex Quarry Nature Park, a classic Adirondack brook winds through a cedar forest, chatters over boulders artfully accented with moss and ferns and then — disappears.

Like water running down a drain, it plunges down a stony crevice in the earth and is gone. Trail stewards say it doesn’t reappear again until it reaches Lake Champlain. Precisely where it goes and what it encounters along the way will likely forever be a mystery.

The Secret Life of Water is a fascinating story that escapes most people as they appreciate the beauty and charm of Adirondack lakes, rivers and streams. Paddlers might not realize that beneath the surface Mirror Lake, to pick one example, has important work to do, and some of that work is fraught.

Water sustains life, but it is also a mover, a builder, a gardener and an excavator. What it encounters in one spot can have implications in another, as we’ve seen with road salt and excessive nutrients.

Gov. Kathy Hochul was in Lake Placid on Friday, talking about the importance of water quality and showing off permeable pavement that allows rain to seep through the ground before it reaches the lake instead of running along the surface collecting man-made toxins as it goes.

Water is the reason the Adirondack Park was created. Left to its own devices, it does its job well. But where development has knocked it off its game, sometimes it can use a little help.

 A scene from the Essex Quarry trail. Mike Lynch photo


Tuesday, September 28, 2021

After the flood and before the next storm

bridge

On the heels of the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Irene, comes commemoration of another calamity: It’s been almost two years since the Halloween Storm of 2019 dumped a frightening amount of rain in the Southeastern Adirondacks, an event that probably received less attention than was due because it centered on a less populated part of the park.
The storm washed out the road to the much-ballyhooed Boreas Ponds, scarcely six weeks after it had opened. One small victim of the storm was a bridge leading to Hammond Pond, a sparkling blue sheet in the Eastern Adirondacks. It took two years, but the state has finally replaced it with a beefy piece of infrastructure that is part bridge, part work of art (see photo above).

It may seem like overkill for such a small stream, but as the climate changes, that’s what it’s going to take to withstand the beating that trails, roads and bridges are likely to absorb from rising rivers and streams. Notably, the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act on the ballot next year would spend no less than $1 billion to brace against the impact of flooding. Many have fretted over the costs of lowering carbon emissions. But failing to lower carbon emissions is likely to cost us far more.

— Tim Rowland, Explorer contributor


Monday, September 20, 2021

A quarry in question

white lake quarryPushback against the granite quarry proposed for a forming mining site on White Lake in the town of Forestport (the northern tip of Oneida County) has been building for months.

In late August, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued a Notice of Complete Application for the project, kicking off the formal review process, that because of the location inside the Adirondack Park boundary, is taking place in collaboration with the Adirondack Park Agency (APA).

Representatives of both agencies recently presided over a hearing on the project. As our correspondent Megan Plete Postol has been reporting on this story, opposition to the project is strong, with more than 1,000 letters submitted to the APA and not a single person at the hearing made a comment in support of the project. (Although she did send us a photo of one pro-quarry sign she came across in her travels.)

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, September 8, 2021

River restoration

ausable river restoration

Sometimes it’s not enough to let nature take its course. At least, when humans have intervened and altered a wild river, it can take humans to help restore the river’s health.

That’s what’s happening now on the East Branch of the Ausable River, as Explorer correspondent Tim Rowland reports. It’s one of the most revered watersheds in the East, and its health, water quality and ability to shelter cool, deep pools could prove critical to the persistence of native brook trout as the climate warms.

The work builds on years of improvements by restoration partners including the Ausable River Association, whose work restoring “the Dream Mile” intern Ben Westcott profiled for us a couple of years ago.

Ausable River Association stream restoration associate Gary Henry, left, and executive director Kelley Tucker go over restoration plans on the shore of the East Branch of the Ausable River in Upper Jay. Photo by Mike Lynch

Editor’s note: This first appeared in Adirondack Explorer’s weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.


Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Unfinished business

boat stewards

Sometimes in the environmental protection field there’s a celebration of achievements before they’re fully realized. Case in point: We recently reported that a state road salt task force that was celebrated as a potential win for Adirondack water quality was not actually a done deal, as the governor has yet to appoint its members.

When the governor announced his resignation, another such premature victory came to light: The state’s new boat inspection law to prevent movement of invasive species in the park’s waters still awaits a governor’s signature. We reported on that law’s passage months ago, but technically, it’s not reality yet.

Environmental groups are hopeful that incoming Gov. Kathy Hochul will finish the job. The Adirondack Council’s Willie Janeway said this about it in a news release: “Many of the state’s functions inside the Adirondack Park have ground to a halt as the executive branch of government succumbed to administrative paralysis while the current Governor attempted to defend his actions. As Kathy Hochul becomes governor, the entire state will have an opportunity to heal and make progress again.”

It’s important work, as is the road salt study, septic and sewage management and proposed new surveys of park lakes’ changing ecology. We’ll see how the new governor approaches these problems.

Editor’s note: This first appeared in the Explorer’s weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.

Photo courtesy of Adirondack Watershed Institute


Thursday, August 19, 2021

Award-winning water reporting

road salt truck

One of the Adirondack Explorer’s priorities over the last couple of years has been to thoroughly explain the park’s hidden water quality issues, including the problems associated with New York State’s heavy use of road salt in winter. So it was a nice affirmation recently when the Society of Environmental Journalists honored that work, and reporter Ry Rivard, with an honorable mention.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, August 5, 2021

Follow the discussion on Lake George

lake georgeRecently, the Explorer’s Gwendolyn Craig reported that the Lake George Park Commission had assembled a committee to consider the effects of septic systems on the lake’s water, and to discuss whether or how to regulate them. At its meeting today, the commission announced that Essex and Washington counties had joined Warren County on the committee, providing representation for all lands around the lake.

This question of septics and other possible sources of nutrient pollution in the “Queen of American Lakes” is a topic in which the Explorer has invested a considerable amount of reporting, as wastewater pollution is emerging as a top priority in the Adirondacks. We’ll continue following it and explaining how it may affect homeowners, vacationers and the environment. In the meantime, this new committee will meet today, Aug. 5, and you can find information for following that discussion online by clicking this link.

Lake George photo from the Almanack archive

This first appeared in the Explorer’s weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to subscribe.


Thursday, July 22, 2021

Watching the Wind and Water

New York, like the nation and world, has big plans for using offshore wind power as a way of reducing carbon emissions and the severity of climate change. Recently we learned that the Adirondacks — far inland from the Atlantic Coast — will play a role in helping make that successful.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, July 19, 2021

Pollution is a rural problem, too

wellWater pollution is a big concern for us here in the Adirondack Park, and we’re not just talking about the kind that wafts in from out-of-state smokestacks and deposits acid in our lakes.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The lakes don’t look like they used to

lakes recover from acid rainOver the past year, I’ve tried to gather data on the health of Adirondack lakes, despite major gaps.

So when a researcher emailed me out of the blue to say he’d just done a study of how lakes were recovering from acid rain and changing colors, I gave him a call.

The researcher, Paul Bukaveckas, is a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. But he was here a few decades ago studying the effects of acid rain on Adirondack lakes in the late 1980s.

His new research, which brought him back to 20 Adirondack lakes in recent years, helps confirm what a few people have started talking about: As lakes recover from the effects of acid rain they are turning browner. That’s a good thing, unlike the brown in other lakes that may be the result of pollution.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Lake Champlain trout rebound

spawning lake troutTypically, invasive species get cast as villains, coming into places and upending the native plants and animals.

But as I was checking in on plans to reduce the amount of trout being stocked in Lake Champlain by New York’s hatcheries, I found that sometimes invasive species might have unexpectedly positive roles.

Hatchery officials who once worried they weren’t stocking enough trout now have to worry they’ll stock too many, because the trout are beginning to breed on their own in the lake. There are now perhaps 100,000 or 200,000 trout in the lake. Too many trout in one lake could collapse the food chain, if too many eat too much.

Why? Some new theories suggest Lake Champlain trout may be rebounding in part of changes in the lake driven by invasive species giving them new food and forcing them to breed in better parts of the lake.

Those twin changes — the rebound of wild trout in the lake and the potential role of invasive species in that rebound — prompted a quick piece that’s now online from the current print issue of Adirondack Explorer, which you can read here.

Photo of lake trout courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

This first appeared in Ry’s weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.


Thursday, April 29, 2021

A lawsuit, a lake and a marina

marinaLast week, I looked at some broader issues raised by a lawsuit over a marina expansion on Lower Saranac Lake.

The dispute is often cast as one among a neighbor — Thomas Jorling, the former head of the state’s environmental conservation agency — and the marina owner and the agencies allowing the marina expansion. But the lawsuit touches on issues that have bedeviled the region for decades, including the amount of study that needs to be done before development can be allowed in the Adirondack Park.

You can read the full story here.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, April 26, 2021

Go Fish: Stocking Saranac River Salmon

salmonRegional fishery folks are testing new ways of getting salmon ready for the Saranac River, a river salmon once thrived in but were blocked from 200 years ago by dams.

I explored the relationship among the river, the dams and the salmon in a series of stories last year. This spring, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation plans to stock salmon in the river, which it has done for years, but this time keep some in a pen for several weeks. In the pen, the fish, who were born in a hatchery, will be fed and cared for by Trout Unlimited. The idea is these fish will have a better chance to survive and learn the river before they leave it for Lake Champlain. That learning, called imprinting, might make it more likely for the salmon to return to the river to spawn in years to come.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Regulating road salt like acid rain

Several decades ago, acid rain in the Adirondacks helped direct the nation’s attention to new kinds of air pollution.

Despite the local environmental protections here, acids were being carried from coal-fired power plants elsewhere in the country by the atmosphere and falling into Adirondack lakes and streams, killing off fish. The regulatory boundary protecting the park’s forests and wetlands from development and logging weren’t going to stop that.

A national problem needed a national solution. So, in 1990, Congress updated the Clean Air Act to crack down on polluters.

A recent paper, authored by researchers at the University of Maryland, argues that salt pollution, including pollution from road salt, may be so ubiquitous that it now needs such a national solution. “Ultimately,” the paper says, “there may be a need for regulations similar to the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, which were enacted to address pollution from acid rain.”

» Continue Reading.