Posts Tagged ‘Water Resources-Clean Water’

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

King Philip’s Revenge: DEC Closes Spring

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has closed King Philip’s spring, apparently for good. DEC removed a pipe that connected the fenced-off spring to a popular pull-off on Route 73/9 in the town of North Hudson near Exit 30 of the Northway (I-87), citing high levels of coliform bacteria as the reason. (Wish I’d known before I filled a water bottle there a week ago. I wound up pouring most of it on a plant anyway.)

Coliform indicates human or animal waste has gotten into the water. It’s unlikely DEC tested for giardia or E coli (such tests are hit or miss), but the chronic presence of feces brings risk of these and other disease-causing organisms. Following is DEC’s press release:

DEC removed the pipe to the spring after periodic waters samples taken by DEC over the past six months indicated high levels of coliform bacteria exceeding Department of Health water quality standards.

“The Department understands that obtaining water from the spring is very popular with visitors and residents,” said DEC Regional Director Betsy Lowe. “The decision to close the spring was made after considerable deliberation, however, it reflects our responsibility to ensure the safety of the public.”

Coliform bacteria are found in the digestive tracts of animals, including humans, and their wastes. While not necessarily a pathogen themselves, the presence of these bacteria in drinking water, however, generally is a result of a problem with water treatment or the pipes which distribute the water, and indicates that the water may be contaminated with organisms that can cause disease. Disease symptoms may include diarrhea, cramps, nausea and possibly jaundice and any associated headaches and fatigue.

DEC weighed a number of factors before making the decision to close the spring, such as NYS Department of Health (DOH) regulation and disinfection.

DOH regulations require that public drinking water supplies be treated or taken from underground wells— the spring is essentially a surface water supply.

Measures to disinfect the pipe and spring are only temporary. Due to the location and accessibility of the spring, it can be easily contaminated by humans or animals at any time — even shortly after the system has been disinfected.

Constructing and maintaining a permanent structure and with equipment to disinfect the water would not comply with the Article XIV of the State Constitution and the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. It most likely would be costly, ruin the experience of obtaining water from the spring and change the taste of the spring water, as well.

DEC regrets the inconvenience caused by the closure of the spring, but can not ignore its responsibility to protect the public. DEC continues to recommend that users of the Adirondack Forest Preserve treat any water obtained from surface waters, including springs, before drinking or cooking with it. Questions from the public may be directed to the DEC Region 5 Lands & Forests Office at (518) 897-1291 or [email protected]

Galen Crane wrote an enlightening article about water quality at popular Adirondack springs in the 2001 Collectors Issue of Adirondack Life. At that time DEC did not test springwater, and the magazine did an independent test. Crane found that coliform was present — though in insignificant amounts — at six of seven springs sampled, including King Philip’s. Some people advocate drinking even untreated, unfiltered surface water in the Adirondack backcountry, arguing that worries about giardia are overblown. But where coliform is confirmed, doctors say it’s prudent not to gamble with that water source.

King Philip’s spring is reputed to have been named after a Wampanoag Native American chief who waged war on New England colonists in the late 17th century and was beheaded in 1676. If anyone knows why this spring bears his name, please tell.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Another Victory Over Adirondack Mercury Pollution

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an attempt by the Bush administration and the utility industry to reinstate a mercury-control regulation that would have allowed increased mercury pollution in the Adirondacks. According to the ADK’s Neil Woodworth, this is the “final nail in the coffin of this ill-advised regulation, which left the Adirondacks and Catskills vulnerable to continued mercury contamination.”

In January 2007, ADK filed a brief with the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia asserting that Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR) was an illegal attempt to weaken the strict mercury emission controls set forth in the Clean Air Act. Here is a little history of the legal battle over mercury pollution from the Adirondack Mountain Club:

In February 2008, the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) won a major victory when the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia threw out the CAMR, a cap-and-trade program that allowed polluters to buy pollution credits and emit mercury without pollution controls. CAMR resulted in regional mercury “hot spots,” and two recent studies have linked coal-fired power plants to mercury hot spots in the Adirondacks and Catskills. The appeals court ruled that the EPA mercury plan conflicted with the clear language of the federal Clean Air Act, which requires each power plant to install the best technology available to reduce mercury emissions by as much as 90 percent.

The Bush administration and the utility industry appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Although the Obama administration withdrew the federal government’s appeal, the industry continued to pursue the case. Today, the Supreme Court dismissed the industry’s writ of certiorari, thus upholding the appeals court’s decision in the case.

The decision means that EPA must now promulgate regulations requiring each power plant to install the most advanced pollution controls to reduce its mercury emissions. Here is more from an ADK press release:

In enacting the Clean Air Act, Congress provided for strict limits on mercury emissions through the installation of maximum achievable control technology, which Congress made applicable to all coal-burning power plants. By contrast, the EPA administrative rule challenged in this lawsuit would have delayed for two decades the elimination of airborne mercury emissions as a source of mercury toxins in the Northeast.

Furthermore, the contested rule would have allowed many of the worst polluters to buy “pollution rights,” continue to release mercury up their smokestacks and perpetuate mercury hot spots in New York and the Northeast.

The Adirondacks and Catskills are downwind of numerous coal-burning power plants, whose mercury emissions contribute significantly to mercury pollution in these regions. A 2007 independent study by the Charles Driscoll and the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation estimated that mercury emissions from U.S. coal-fired power plants are responsible for 40 percent to 65 percent of mercury deposition in the Northeast.

Current levels of mercury deposition in the Northeast are four to six times higher than the levels recorded in 1900. Ninety-six percent of the lakes in the Adirondack region and 40 percent of the lakes in New Hampshire and Vermont exceed the recommended EPA action level for methyl mercury in fish.

Because of high mercury levels in fish from six reservoirs in the Catskills, state health officials have warned that infants, children under 15 and women of childbearing age should not eat any fish from these reservoirs. Mercury is also present in two-thirds of Adirondack loons at levels that negatively impact their reproductive capacity, posing a significant risk to their survival.

New York State recommends that no one eat more than one meal per week of fish taken from any lake, river, stream or pond in New York State. There is a complete (and disturbing) list and map of the Adirondack fish advisories from the New York State Department of Health located here. It lists 55 Adirondack lakes from which “children less than 15 years old and women who are pregnant or who might one day become pregnant should not eat any fish.”


Kid next to water

Kid next to water

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