FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 8, 2011
SCHUMER, EPA, NY DEC OFFICIALLY DESIGNATE LAKE ONTARIO A NO DISCHARGE ZONE– MOVE WILL PREVENT DUMPING OF SEWAGE AND CHEMICALS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO ROCHESTER BEACH CLOSURES
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck and DEC Assistant Commissioner Jim Tierney announced that Lake Ontario has been officially designated a No Discharge Zone. The designation prohibits boaters from dumping chemically treated sewage and other potentially harmful chemicals into the waters offshore, adding pathogens and other toxins to the water. Last year, Ontario Beach was closed for over half of the season and over 35% of this year’s season, while Durand Eastman was closed for 32 days of its 51-day long season, and 29% of this year’s season due to poor water quality. In preparation for the designation, the state of New York has helped establish approximately 35 pumping stations along the coastline, making it easy and affordable for boaters to discharge their sewage and chemicals in a clean and environmentally-safe manner.
After a June visit to Rochester's Durand Eastman Beach to push for Lake Ontario to be designated as a No Discharge Zone, Senator Schumer, EPA Regional Administrator Enck and DEC Assistant Commissioner Tierney announced that an NDZ has officially been established. The Federal Clean Water Act allows states to request the EPA to establish a No Discharge Zone (NDZ) which is an area of a waterbody or an entire waterbody into which the discharge of sewage, treated or untreated, from all vessels is completely prohibited. Discharge of raw sewage is already prohibited in Lake Ontario and in all in-land waterways and in-land lakes, but until today, boaters were permitted to dump chemically treated sewage into the lake. States can have all or portions of their waters designated as a no discharge zone for vessel sewage for a variety of reasons. A No Discharge Zone may be designated to protect special aquatic habitats or species and to safeguard human health. A NDZ can also be designated to protect aquatic habitats when the state demonstrates availability of adequate and reasonably available pumpout or dump station facilities for the safe and sanitary removal and treatment of sewage.
The No Discharge Zone in Lake Ontario marks a major and necessary steps in safeguarding the health of beach-goers and swimmers as well as to protect the Lake’s marine life and habitats from pathogens, endocrine disrupters, and toxins such as formaldehyde, phenols and chlorine that are found in even treated waste. Previous to today’s announcement, boaters could discharge chemically treated waste anywhere in Lake Ontario, including just a few feet off shore. Schumer noted that his push for this designation was supported by boaters, because the health of Lake Ontario is a paramount concern when fishing or recreating on the lake.
The establishment of a No Discharge Zone by the EPA now better matches the Canadian government’s comprehensive safety standards to protect the health of swimmers and marine life along the Canadian Lake Ontario Coastal Waters. Specifically, in 2001 the Canadian government enacted the Canadian Shipping Act that effectively created a prohibition on discharging any waste within 1 mile of Canada’s Lake Ontario shoreline and a ban on discharging untreated waste as far as 3 miles from shore since even treated waste can still deliver pathogens and toxins to local waters. Schumer is thrilled that U.S. beach goers now have strong protections like those enjoyed by their Canadian neighbors on the other side of Lake Ontario.
Schumer applauded the DEC for their work in the process to make Lake Ontario a NDZ. As required under the Federal Clean Water Act, the DEC first certified that a No Discharge Zone is needed to protect human and ecological health and demonstrated that there are enough existing shoreline pump out centers to meet boaters needs. The DEC has worked over the years to help fund more pump-put locations, and there are now approximately 35 located across the Lake Ontario coastline, most of which are available to boaters for free or for a nominal charge. The DEC originally filed their application with the EPA on May 9th, and as of Schumer’s June visit had not yet taken action on the application. Today’s news marks major progress since Schumer’s original push.
Lake Ontario is last in the chain of Great Lakes that straddle the border between Canada and the United States and is the dominating natural asset in this region. Currently there are ten municipal water supplies that draw water from Lake Ontario, serving more than 760,000 people in New York State. Moreover, as part of the Great Lakes System, Lake Ontario is one component of a reservoir that contains 95% of the fresh surface water in the United States and is the largest single reservoir on earth. Lake Ontario is also a major economic driver and its harbors embayments, creeks, and wetlands host numerous commercial and recreational activities such as shipping, fishing, boating, and tourism, in addition to supporting a remarkable diversity of wildlife and fish spawning areas.