Aiding Water Quality Efforts – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Aiding Water Quality Efforts

Thanks in part to a $2,100 grant from the Ontario County Water Resources Council, 150 residents of the five watersheds surrounding Canandaigua, Canadice, Hemlock, Honeoye and Seneca Lakes will learn how to protect and preserve the quality of their drinking water.

At two free workshops provided by the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in late spring and summer, attendees will also explore how to make their households and property more healthy and environmentally-friendly while reducing their ecological footprints.

That’s good news not only for property owners, but for the entire region.

Obtaining information that ultimately improves household health along with water quality in these five watersheds will help sustain property values, spur interest in sustainable development and ultimately preserve the viability of the Finger Lakes area as a great place to live, work and visit.

That prospect makes providing these workshops even more compelling in light of ever-increasing inquiries from residents of these watersheds, Finger Lakes Institute Director Marion Balyszak says.

This is the second year the Institute has received a grant from the Ontario County Water Resources Council.

Last year, a $2,500 grant helped fund an aquatic macrophyte survey conducted by Institute Research Scientist Dr. Bin Zhu to determine which plants living in Seneca Lake are native or invasive.

Ontario County Water Resources Council Chair Bob Pierce said grants are awarded based on careful review to ensure recipients’ proposals fulfill the county’s mission of preserving its water quality.

The Finger Lakes Institute was one of 10 recipients this year of grants totaling nearly $14,000.

“These grants typically help different organizations leverage larger sums of money to finance water-quality-related projects,” Pierce says.

Balyszak says the workshops will build on those provided in 1998 by Seneca Lake Area Partners in Five Counties (SLAP-5) and Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association for Seneca Lake watershed residents focusing on drinking water protection, waste management and hazardous household materials.

“We are excited about the workshops this grant will support. There is a great deal of new information available and frequent inquiries from property owners has indicated a huge interest in such a program,” Balyszak says. “Having multiple-day workshops will allow adequate time to address key areas.”

Topics will include:

            • Caring for drinking water wells.

            “People generally don’t know having their drinking water tested annually is recommended,” Balyszak says. “And pumps used in a well should also be checked because older ones can breakdown releasing hydraulic fluid into the water.”

            • Maintaining a home septic system.

            “People should have their tank pumped and inspected every three to five years to prevent sewage backups in homes or effluent coming to the ground surface,” she says.

            • Safe storage of heating fuel.

            Balyszak notes an unfortunate and preventable fuel oil spill into Skaneateles Lake in 2007 due to a fuel tank failure on a homeowner’s property.

            “Only a fraction of the oil spilled was recovered. The rest is still being remediated,” she says. “The homeowner indicated he didn’t know it was necessary to maintain the fuel storage tank.”

             • Reducing phosphorous in household or home landscaping products used by residents.

            “Because phosphorus is one of the nutrients that diminishes water quality, reducing its use is critical to keep it from entering groundwater and lakes,” she says.

            • Reducing use of hazardous household chemicals.

            “There are a whole array of products like bleaches and other cleaning products that are hazardous in our households but are also an environmental hazard. If there is a spill, these products can enter groundwater and eventually enter a lake,” she says.

            • Yard and garden care.

            “It will focus on water conservation, composting, growing native plants and reducing use of herbicides and fertilizers,” she says.

            • Reducing household wastes through recycling and re-using.

            • Household energy conservation.

            “It reduces pollutants from power plants along with associated waste products,” Balyszak says.

 Sarah Meyer, the Institute’s community outreach coordinator, is finalizing the program details and will lead the workshops.

Once they’ve been held, Balyszak anticipates the program will also be available upon request for lake associations, watershed groups, schools and others as part of Institute’s Community Outreach Program.