10.13.17

WITH THE HUDSON VALLEY HAVING THE HIGHEST NUMBER OF TOXIC ALGAE BLOOMS IN NY, SENATOR CALLS ON HOUSE TO IMMEDIATELY PASS A VITAL BI-PARTISAN PLAN TO COMBAT DANGEROUS ALGAL BLOOMS; JUST-PASSED SENATE BILL COULD DELIVER FED FUNDS TO PROTECT LAKES, PONDS—AND DRINKING WATER—IN ORANGE, SULLIVAN AND ULSTER COUNTIES, BUT IT REQUIRES HOUSE TO ACT

As Harmful Algae Has Been Detected In 6 Reports In Sullivan County This Year, Federal Program That Delivers Resources To Help Fight Problem Needs Re-Authorization; Blooms Could Contaminate Drinking Water & Put Recreational Activities At Risk Throughout The Hudson Valley

Schumer Says If Bipartisan Plan, Which Has Already Passed The Senate, Passes The House, Sullivan, Orange And Ulster County Would Be Eligible For More Resources’ To Combat Threat To People & Environment

Schumer: If House Of Reps Pass This Bill, We Can Better Fight Toxic Blooms In Sullivan County

With reports confirming that harmful algae continues to spread across Sullivan, Ulster and Orange Counties, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today stood at the Shawangunk Kill, the largest tributary of the Wallkill River, to launch a major effort to push the U.S. House of Representatives to quickly pass the “Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 2017.” Schumer said the bi-partisan bill, which recently passed the Senate would help combat toxic algae that has plagued, Sullivan, Ulster and Orange Counties for years including the Wallkill River, a staple in the Hudson Valley and a tributary of the Hudson River. Schumer warned that, if left unchecked, these toxic blooms could not only harm household pets, but could also pose a health risk to residents with symptoms such as nausea, and skin irritation. Additionally, these blooms can contaminate drinking water for Hudson Valley residents, as well as damage to the local economy dependent on fishing and recreation.

“One of the greatest assets in Sullivan County and the entire Hudson Valley is its water accessibility. From the Hudson to Wallkill River, to right here at the Shawagunk Kill, water recreation is a staple to the way of life here and toxic algae should not get in the way of that,” said Senator Schumer. “But when toxic algae finds its way into our precious water supply it could be devastating for the region. That is why I am calling on the U.S. House of Representatives to immediately approve this critical legislation to address these toxic blooms not only threaten our ecosystems and public health, but also hurt the local economy by closing beaches and limiting recreational activities. Now that the Senate has passed this bill, we are counting on the House to do the same. This vital legislation will help protect marine life, bays, estuaries and drinking water while continuing to seek out new dollars and resources for Hudson Valley Communities as well as communities nationwide.”

Due to a number of factors, including nitrogen pollution as a result of older wastewater systems, the amount of phosphorous in waterways throughout New York has increased: in recent years, causing large algal blooms to grow in the water. Experts say climate change has also brought warmer temperatures and more spring rainfall, both of which favor the growth of algae blooms. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), red tides, blue-green algae or cyanobacteria, harmful algal blooms have severe impacts on human, health, aquatic ecosystems and the economy.

Schumer was joined by County Manager Joshua Potosek, Executive Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Sullivan County Colleen Monaghan, Chairman of Sullivan County Legislator Luis Alverez, Mamakating Supervisor Bill Hermann, and Executive Director of Wallkill Watershed Alliance Jason West.

“We would welcome federal resources to address algal blooms the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation has noted in several local bodies of water, including most recently Lake Huntington and Pleasure Lake,” said Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Luis Alvarez. “Even when they aren’t harmful, they are unsightly, uninviting and detrimental to the quality of life for our residents, visitors, pets, and wildlife. Senator Schumer’s actions and the Senate’s support are therefore deeply appreciated, and the Sullivan County Legislature joins with him in calling for House action on this important issue.”

“Having faced a 30-mile long Harmful Algae Bloom last year in the Wallkill River, we know firsthand what a HAB means.  It means disruptions to ecosystems. It means loss of tourism from fishing and boating. It means threats to pets and livestock, It means contaminated drinking water supplies. The research and remediation this bill funds are needed more every year, and Sen. Schumer is right to call on the House to pass the bill as soon as possible." said Jason West, Executive Director of the Wallkill River Watershed Alliance.

Schumer explained according to New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) the Hudson Valley has the highest number of algae blooms with 52 just this year alone, in a total of 36 different water sources. Of those 52 instances, Sullivan County has logged 6 algal blooms in 5 of its water sources thus far and nearby counties, including Orange and Ulster, have had 14 blooms have been found in 9 water sources.

Reports of Harmful Algae

Counties

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Sullivan/Orange/Ulster

6

7

9

13

16

20

Additionally, according to a recent Times Herald Record report, the Mid-Hudson region has seen an uptick in algae blooms with 56 spots where blooms have been seen or suspected. In Sullivan County, the DEC found a large bloom in both Montgomery Lake and Evans Lake. In nearby Orange County, officials have found or suspected algal blooms in Beaver Dam Lake, Brooks Lake, and Orange Lake. Beaver Dam Lake was forced to close twice this year due to algae blooms according to the Orange County Health Department. Luckily, Orange Lake and Brooks Lake have less exposure to the residents because they are not sources of drinking water and do not have swimming beaches.

Schumer said that the bill, sponsored by Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), provides funding, but also a research and response framework to combat Blue-Green Algal Bloom outbreaks throughout the country. Specifically, the bill would authorize $22 million a year for five years (2019-2023) to help conduct research on harmful algal blooms and continue an interagency working group to advance the understanding of hypoxia and harmful algal blooms. Additionally, this bill requires the task force submit a scientific assessment to Congress at least every five years of harmful algal blooms in U.S. coastal waters and freshwater systems. Schumer says these kinds of dollars and resources, once enshrined in the law, should be used to help combat the rise of algal blooms in Upstate New York. 

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