Our Water Quality Program
The Adirondack Council is focusing conservation, advocacy, outreach and education efforts on addressing the threats that are most likely to negatively impact the Park. It is for this reason that the Adirondack Council is redoubling its efforts to preserve the Park's water.
The Council's efforts to protect the Park's water will ensure that aquatic ecosystems are healthy and functioning properly and able to provide the clean, fresh water that has been historically characteristic of the Adirondack Park.
Addressing major threats to water quality, the Adirondack Council will focus on objectives that will lead to tangible results, securing pure Adirondack Park water for generations to come. In fact, our efforts to protect water quality are so highly regarded that we are part of the NYSDEC’s Water ManagementAdvisory Committee, a group of the state’s most effective stakeholders in water quality management.
High acidity levels in many Adirondack lakes make them inhospitable to fish populations and create mercury levels that make Adirondack fish unhealthy to eat. Aging sewage and septic systems and run-off from farms add phosphorous and nutrients to water bodies, contaminating swimming areas and creating a suitable environment for aquatic nuisance species like milfoil and algae. High levels of chloride and sodium from the improper storage and use of road salt is also contaminating drinking water supplies and harming fish and amphibian communities.
Fortunately, the solutions to mitigate these threats to the Park's waters have been identified.
Water quality problems rarely present simple solutions, but the Adirondack Council continues to focus on finding tangible solutions to these varied and complicated issues, such as invasive species, road salt, large-scale water extraction, or degraded water treatment systems.
To control aquatic invasive species, including Eurasian milfoil, water chestnut, zebra mussels, and Asian clams, which choke out native species and interfere with water quality and recreational activities, the Adirondack Council will raise awareness through a public education campaign about the impact of invasive species and how they enter our waterways. We will continue to collaborate with the Adirondack Watershed Institute and co-sponsor the Annual Adirondack Water Quality Conference.
In 2012, the Adirondack Council supported legislation that permitted the NYSDEC in partnership with the Department of Ag and Markets to develop a list of invasive species in New York and regulate their sale, possession, and transportation. Through this law, the NYSDEC can issue a warning and informational material for a first violation, followed by a $250 fine for a second violation. While this does not provide the strictest protection, this law is an important first step in slowing the spread of invasive species.
In January of 2013, the Adirondack Council and a coalition of Adirondack Park and regional environmental and conservation organizations called on Governor Cuomo and DEC Commissioner Joe Martens to support and assist in the creation of a new mandatory boat inspection and decontamination program for Lake George. The coalition called for budgetary support of the Lake George Park Commission (LGPC) who has regulatory authority over the lake. With funding, the LGPC hopes to implement a permanent aquatic invasive species boat inspection and decontamination program modeled after the highly successful program created in Lake Tahoe.
The Council will also continue to work with the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP) to design an Adirondack invasive species strategy to prevent their dispersal, restore infested areas, and ensure increased funding to sustain APIPP's work.
Moving forward, the Adirondack Council will continue to advocate for stronger legislation and a more comprehensive management of invasive species that not only includes mitigation efforts, but prevention efforts as well.
To upgrade wastewater treatment systems,which include outdated septic and municipal sewage treatment systems, which allow pollutants to flow into our waterways and threaten our drinking water supplies and human health, the Council will promote legislation requiring inspections and improvements for residential on-site wastewater treatment systems with financial incentives to ensure compliance. We will also advocate for additional funding for Adirondack communities to undertake community planning to project their needs and secure funds for wastewater and drinking water infrastructure.
In 2012, the Adirondack Council supported legislation entitled, “the Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act,” which requires public wastewater treatment plant operators to notify the public anytime a sewage overflow event occurs. While at first read it may be surprising that this was not already required, this is in fact a fairly common event. Sewage overflows are a symptom of wastewater treatment facilities that are not built or maintained to process the capacities of wastewater required of them. While it is important that the public be notified of these events for their protection while drinking from or recreating on a body of water, the true value of this law will lie in the public’s education of our state’s dire need to invest in our degrading wastewater treatment systems. In 2008, the NYSDEC released a report that estimated that New York State requires $36.2 billion in wastewater treatment infrastructure upgrades. The Adirondack Council will continue to advocate for measures that alleviate this burden on municipalities and the Park’s hydrologic systems.
To prevent runoff from over developed shorelines and inappropriate farming practices, Adirondack Council will advocate for Adirondack Park Agency Act reforms focusing on shoreline development including larger setbacks, lot sizes and vegetative buffers to reduce runoff and improve water quality.
To limit contamination from road salt, which finds its way into our waterways and drinking water supplies threatening public health, the Council will promote legislative action requiring proper storage and prudent application of road salt and the use of alternative ice controls on roadways in the Park.
This year, the NYS Department of Transportation, with the support of the Adirondack Council, began its implementation of a pilot project in the Adirondacks that aims to reduce the amount of salt applied to state roads while still maintaining safe driving conditions. The project is taking place on sections of routes 3, 7, 8, and 86, and will include alternative measures such as slower plow speeds, “squeegee” or “belly” plows, and varied salt solutions (brines).
To prevent large-scale out-of-basin water extractions that can drastically and disproportionally reduce the water table, the Adirondack Council has closely monitored and encouraged the NYSDEC’s implementation of new water withdrawal permitting and reporting requirements. The most significant part of the new regulation requires that private entities that withdraw water for commercial, manufacturing, or industrial uses apply for a permit if they have the capacity to withdraw over 100,000 gallons of ground or surface water in a day. Permittees will be required to report general information such as the watershed they are located in and what type of use the water is intended for. The Adirondack Council sees this action as a positive step towards large-scale water resource management.