SCHUMER ANNOUNCES MAJOR STEP IN FEDS CREATION OF NO-DISCHARGE ZONE TO KEEP LAKE ONTARIO CLEAN: DUMPING SEWAGE & CHEMICALS OFF ROCHESTERS SHORE PUTS SWIMMERS AND BEACHGOERS AT RISK
In Response to Schumers Urging - Environmental Protection Agency Pledges Swift Review and Tentative Affirmation of New Yorks Request To Prevent Sewage and Chemical Dumping Off Of Rochesters Shore; Unclean Water Kept Beaches Closed For A Combined 74 Days Last Year After 30-Day Public Comment Period, EPA Aims to Establish No-Discharge Zone That Has Reduced Pollution In Other New York Waterways Schumer: EPA Agrees - Stop Dumping & Keep Rochesters Coastline Clean for Boaters and Beac
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced a major step in his push to clean up Lake Ontario's waters near Rochester's shore. Currently the New York Department of Environmental Conservation is seeking to create a "nodischarge zone" (NDZ) that would prohibit boats from dumping sewage and other potentially harmful chemicals into the waters offshore, a practice which can add pathogens and other toxins to the water. In response to Schumer's urging, the Environmental Protection Agency has stated their intention to tentatively approve the request to make Lake Ontario a NDZ, and aims to make that decision permanent after a 30 day public comment period. The EPA is in full agreement with Schumer regarding the urgency and importance of Lake Ontario's petition, and will act on the review of NYDEC application immediately. Schumer applauds EPA's response and urges that the decision be finalized in due time, as establishing the zone could greatly improve the water quality for summer beachgoers and swimmers, as well as boaters who anchor near the coast to swim.
"I applaud the EPA's decision to swiftly review and tentatively approve New York's request to establish a nodischarge zone in Lake Ontario," said Schumer. "It is imperative that we take the necessary steps to safeguard their health and protect the Lake's marine life and habitats, and the EPA agrees with the urgency and importance of this petition. I urge the EPA to move swiftly through the final steps required in putting human health and water quality first and swiftly establish a nodischarge zone."
In response to Schumer's June 27 th letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, the EPA notes that the EPA is in full agreement with the urgency and importance of the NYDEC's petition for a "nodischarge zone" to be established in Lake Ontario. The Lake provides valuable natural, recreational and historic resources that contribute significantly to the local, regional and state economy. This action will protect the water quality of Lake Ontario, which includes 13,500 square miles and 326 linear shoreline miles of navigable portions of the lower Genesee, Oswego, and Black Rivers, and numerous tributaries, harbors, and embayments of the Lake.
Schumer notes that the local EPA Administrator has indicated the review of NYSDEC's petition for a NDZ and, in accordance with federal regulations, is concurrently preparing to publish a tentative affirmative determination in the Federal Register in August 2011. After publication of this affirmative determination, the EPA notes that there will be a 30day public comment period followed by a finalization of this determination shortly after. Schumer applauds this response from the EPA, and urges that this process move as quickly as possible.
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 inland waterways and inland lakes, but chemically treated sewage can still currently be dumped 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.
In a June 27 th visit to Durand Eastman Beach on Lake Ontario's Rochester shore, Schumer pushed for Lake Ontario to be designated as a No Discharge Zone, as it is imperative to take the necessary steps to safeguard the health of beachgoers 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. Currently boaters can discharge chemically treated waste anywhere in Lake Ontario, including just a few feet off shore. Schumer notes that boaters support his push for the NDZ designation, because the health of Lake Ontario is a paramount concern when fishing or recreating on the lake.
The Canadian government has already set more 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 argues that U.S. beach goers should clearly have the same protections as their Canadian neighbors on the other side of Lake Ontario.
Schumer notes that the DEC has taken all the appropriate steps 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 pumpput locations, and there are now 37 located across the Lake Ontario coastline, most of which are available to boaters for free or for a nominal charge. The DEC filed their application with the EPA in May 2011, and the EPA's pledge to swiftly review the petition and set up a tentative nodischarge zone is a very positive step. Schumer notes that the EPA must do everything in its power to make this decision permanent after the 30day public comment period.
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.
A copy of the EPA Regional Administrator's response to Senator Schumer's request appears below:
The Honorable Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Schumer:
Thank you for your letter dated July 27, 2011 addressed to Lisa P. Jackson, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency which has been forwarded to me for reply.
In your letter, you supported the petition submitted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to designate the New York State portions of Lake Ontario as a NoDischarge Zone (NDZ) to ban the discharges of treated or untreated sewage from boats, pursuant to the Clean Water Act. On May 31, 2011, the EPA was pleased to receive the NYSDEC's petition for a NoDischarge Zone. Establishment of a NDZ will be a significant step towards protecting the waters of Lake Ontario.
Lake Ontario provides valuable natural, recreational and historic resources that contribute significantly to the local, regional and state economy. This action will protect the water quality of Lake Ontario, which includes 13,500 square miles and 326 linear shoreline miles of navigable portions of the lower Genesee, Oswego, and Black Rivers, and numerous tributaries, harbors, and embayments of the Lake. The EPA is in full agreement with the urgency and importance of this petition and, therefore, I have directed my staff to act on this immediately.
My staff has indicated the review of NYSDEC's petition for a NDZ and, in accordance with federal regulations, is concurrently preparing to publish a tentative affirmative determination in the Federal Register in August 2011, provided that all the necessary information is in the petition. After publication, there will be a 30day public comment period. Our goal is to finalize this determination shortly thereafter.
If you have further question, please let me know or your staff may contact Mike McGowan, Acting Chief for Intergovernmental & Community Affairs at (212) 6374972.
Judith A. Enck
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