Cuomo's Attacking Harmful Algal Blooms in New York’s Waters

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Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York has launched an aggressive campaign to protect our water quality, passing the landmark $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act in the FY 2018 budget and taking action to address the threat of harmful algal blooms (HABs).

The State has developed the most comprehensive HABs outreach and monitoring programs in the country, led by Department of Environmental Conservation sampling ambient waters across the state and Department of Health sampling at regulated beaches and public water systems. The Governor has also directed aggressive actions to protect the public when blooms have impacted susceptible drinking water supplies, including investing $2 million towards the design, engineering, and construction of upgrades to the drinking water treatment systems in the City of Auburn and Town of Owasco in 2017.

In recent years, the extent, duration, and impacts, and awareness of HABs have increased, threatening the recreational use of lakes that are essential to upstate tourism, as well as sources of drinking water. In 2017, more than 100 beaches were closed for at least part of the summer due to HABs, and Skaneateles Lake, a cherished source of unfiltered drinking water for several communities including the city of Syracuse, was threatened by algal blooms for the first time.

While the finished drinking water was not impacted, this event highlights the need to better understand the causes and control of these HABs.

This year, Governor Cuomo will implement a $65 million 4-point initiative to aggressively combat harmful algal blooms in Upstate New York. Twelve priority lakes that are vulnerable to HABs and are critical sources of drinking water and vital tourism drivers were chosen as priority waterbodies because they represent a wide range of conditions and vulnerabilities and the lessons learned will be applied to other impacted waterbodies moving forward. Those lakes are:

  •   Western Group: Conesus Lake; Honeoye Lake; Chautauqua Lake

  •   Central Group: Owasco Lake; Skaneateles Lake; Cayuga Lake

  •   North Country Group: Lake Champlain at Port Henry; New York portion of Lake Champlain at Isle La Motte watershed; Lake George

  •   Greater Hudson Valley Group: Lake Carmel; Palmer Lake; Putnam Lake; Monhagen Brook watershed, including the five reservoirs serving the Middletown area

    The State's Water Quality Rapid Response Team will convene four Regional Summits to bring together nation-leading experts with Steering Committees of local stakeholders established for each lake. The Rapid Response Team, national experts, and local stakeholders will collaboratively develop Action Plans to identify contributing factors fueling HABs and the state will provide $500,000 per lake to develop immediate action plans to reduce sources of pollution that spark algal blooms. The state will provide nearly $60 million in grant funding to implement the Action Plans, including new monitoring and treatment technologies. This comprehensive program will continue New York's national leadership in responding to the threat of harmful algal blooms and establish a national model for protecting our natural resources.

    Proposal: Require Expedited Corrective Actions at the Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Facility

    Governor Cuomo’s strong commitments to protecting New York’s water quality and growing the State’s tourism industry were linked in 2017, as he worked to stem dark water discharges from the Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Facility. Following visible releases this summer, Governor Cuomo directed the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to hold the Niagara Falls Water Board accountable and to take actions to protect water quality at this iconic tourist attraction.

DEC’s assessment concluded that poor operation and inadequate design of the facility caused the non-permitted discharges, requiring repairs and improved training, amongst other steps.

To ensure that the Niagara Falls wastewater facility’s problems are resolved in a comprehensive fashion, Governor Cuomo will invest over $20 million to launch Phase One of the wastewater system overhaul to complete comprehensive infrastructure and operational improvements at the Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Facility. The Governor's proposal also provides $500,000 to expedite two engineering studies that are evaluating both the plant's discharges and treatment systems, which are required by the new consent order with the Niagara Falls Water Board. The results of these studies will help guide and inform the $20 million Phase One investment, serving to protect one of the nation’s greatest natural treasures.