Halfman Discusses Owasco Nutrients – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
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Halfman Discusses Owasco Nutrients

During the Owasco Watershed Lake Association’s monthly meeting, Professor of Geoscience John Halfman presented a talk titled, “Nutrient Sources and their Impact on Owasco Lake: The 2011 Impact,” based on data he collected in his 2011 monitoring of Owasco Lake. Halfman has been studying Owasco Lake for six years and the overall message in the talk was that nutrient levels such as from phosphates and nitrates haven’t varied much. An article in The Citizen reported his findings.

The article noted, “Although Halfman said local waste water treatment plants have reduced their phosphate contribution, he said farmers need to decrease their run-off by putting buffer strips on the low parts of their land.”

He is quoted, “When it rains, stop that run-off. If you can keep that run-off out of the streams, you prevent most of that phosphate from getting your lakes.”

Halfman joined the HWS faculty in 1994 after teaching earth science and civil engineering at the University of Notre Dame. He received his B.S. from the University of Miami magna cum laude, his M.S. from the University of Minnesota and his Ph.D. from Duke University. Halfman has been researching large lakes since the 1980’s, the Finger Lakes since the early 1990’s, and has done research on Lake Superior and the East African Rift Lake. His research on the Finger Lakes includes the collection of limnological and hydrogeochemical data to investigate records of environmental change, the hydrogeochemical impact of zebra mussels, the source and fate of non-point source pollutants within these watersheds and water quality variability between watersheds. In addition to being active in research, Halfman is also the founder, science coordinator and active member of the Finger Lakes Institute.

The full story follows.

The photo above features Professor Halfman giving a presentation at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.


The Citizen
Professor says Owasco Lake hasn’t changed much

Samantha House • December 8, 2011

FLEMING – After six years of studying Owasco Lake, John D. Halfman said that when it comes to the lake’s nutrient levels, not much has drastically changed.
Speaking to approximately 30 people at the Springside Inn, Wednesday evening, Halfman, a professor of geoscience at Hobart and William Smith colleges, explained that data collected from Owasco Lake in 2011 showed levels of nutrients, such as phosphates and nitrates, didn’t vary greatly from past years.

Since 2006, Halfman and his students have periodically taken multiple water samples from Owasco Lake, along with the other Finger Lakes, during the summer to measure nutrient levels and monitor when and where the nutrients enter the lakes. As part of the Owasco Watershed Lake Association’s (OWLA) monthly meeting, Halfman was invited to present the data he collected in his 2011 monitoring of Owasco Lake and answer questions.

At 7 p.m., Halfman began the talk, titled “Nutrient Sources and their Impact on Owasco Lake: The 2011 Impact,” by noting that the 11-mile-long lake is dirtier than it should be due to elevated phosphate levels.

Over the early spring and summer, Halfman said he conducted bimonthly monitoring of Owasco Lake, Dutch Hollow Brook and the Owasco Inlet. A machine also took three water samples from each area per day, providing Halfman with a great deal of data to analyze.

For the most part, Halfman said the lake’s 2011 levels didn’t change. Although the total amount of phosphates in Owasco Lake increased a little and nitrate levels decreased, most measured levels, including the amount of algae in the lake, didn’t differ from previous years, despite heavy rainfall.

Although Owasco Lake isn’t in as much trouble as some other lakes, Halfman said there’s still work to do.

“Me being smart, maybe a smart aleck, suggested that if you turned off the nutrient source, you’d have a good chance at cleanup,” Halfman said.
And so, Halfman has spent six years monitoring not only the levels of nutrients, but how they entered Owasco Lake. Having already identified wastewater treatment plants as one source of the increased phosphate levels, Halfman said his data revealed that run-off from farms also contributes to the problem. Although Halfman said local waste water treatment plants have reduced their phosphate contribution, he said farmers need to decrease their run-off by putting buffer strips on the low parts of their land.

“When it rains, stop that run-off,” he said. “If you can keep that run-off out of the streams, you prevent most of that phosphate from getting your lakes.”
Among the Finger Lakes, Halfman said Owasco Lake isn’t the worst off. Data shows Honeyoye Lake needs the most improvement, while Skaneateles Lake has been getting steadily dirtier. Over the past six years, Halfman said Canadaigua and Keuka lakes have gotten much cleaner.

Although Halfman said some people don’t appreciate him reporting data that shows their lake’s water quality needs improvement, the professor said he sticks with the facts.

“I warn you: I say what I see,” Halfman said. “I don’t temper what I say.”

Staff reporter Samantha House can be reached at 282-2282 or at samantha.house@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter at Citizen_House.