New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has prepared a draft document that proposes to allocate phosphorus discharges to Onondaga Lake
Posted on: 03/28/2012 08:15 PM

The NYS DEC has sent a note regaridng the "Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for Phosphorus in Onondaga Lake" which is now out for public content. The comment period will end at the close of business on April 27, 2012.

Dear Onondaga Lake Community Members:

The federal Clean Water Act requires states to identify water bodies that do not meet water quality standards and to develop restoration strategies to reduce pollutants responsible to restore and protect these waters. As you know, various strategies and much effort have been and will continue to be expended for the cleanup of Onondaga Lake. Cleanup of several industry-polluted properties near the lake has been completed, is in progress or planned, and dredging of the contaminated lake bottom sediments is scheduled to begin this summer. There is also a federal consent decree requiring improvements to wastewater collection and treatment that are in effect and will continue to improve lake water quality.

In addition to these strategies and efforts, and in accordance with federal requirements, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has prepared a draft document that proposes to allocate phosphorus discharges to Onondaga Lake. This document is called the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for Phosphorus in Onondaga Lake and is available for review and comment by visiting http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/67594.html. It essentially represents a pollution budget for phosphorus contribution to the lake. Phosphorus is a nutrient found in fertilizers, human wastes, industrial wastes, agricultural runoff and storm water. In excess, it can cause algal blooms and excessive plant growth in water bodies.

A Total Maximum Daily Load specifies the maximum amount of a pollutant that a water body can receive and still meet water quality standards. TMDLs account for all contributing sources (e.g., point & nonpoint sources, and natural background levels), seasonal variations in the pollutant load, and incorporate a margin of safety that accounts for unknown or unexpected sources of the pollutant.

When developing the phosphorus allocation proposal, DEC considered several years of data, various scientific studies, numerous scientific papers prepared by local and national experts, site-specific water quality mathematical models, local information, and input from those impacted and contributing to the phosphorus load to Onondaga Lake. DEC believes that 20 micrograms per liter (g/l) of phosphorus in the lake is protective of contact recreation and the fish community. Consequently, the proposed phosphorus allocations are based on achieving this concentration in Onondaga Lake. The proposed allocations have already been presented and discussed with many of the entities that discharge phosphorus to the lake, and the allocations are ultimately subject to approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Important points of the draft TMDL consider:
phosphorus limits for the Onondaga County and Village of Marcellus wastewater treatment plants;
regulation of construction and post-construction stormwater discharges;
regulations applicable to concentrated animal feeding operations in the watershed;
recent changes to the Environmental Conservation Law which limit the use of lawn fertilizers containing phosphorus; and
load reductions anticipated from improved combined sewer overflow capture requirements as a result of gray and green infrastructure projects.

The complete document and additional information can be found at http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/67594.html.

For more information on the document, please contact Steve Gladding at NYSDEC Bureau of Water Resource Management by mail at 625 Broadway, 4th Floor, Albany NY 12233-3508, or by phone at (518) 402-8207, or via email at smgladdi@gw.dec.state.ny.us.

Your review and comment on the draft document are welcome. Comments should be sent in writing to the address or email above. The comment period will end at the close of business on April 27, 2012. Comments received by this date will be considered prior to submitting the final document to EPA for approval.

If you would like to have a meeting to discuss this document, please call (315) 426-7403 or email reg7info@gw.dec.state.ny.us.



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