Politics Hurting Chautauqua Lake

The Chautauqua Institution’s lawsuit against the Town of Ellery and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is just the latest example of exhaustive and costly environmental studies followed by lawsuits filed by those with contrary financial, parochial or ideological interests, all resulting in the continuing deterioration of Chautauqua Lake.

Be skeptical of the Institution’s new claim to be the “Steward of the (Chautauqua) Lake,” seeking to usurp that self-proclaimed title from the Chautauqua Lake Association. The Institution’s effort to invalidate the recently-completed $250,000 SEIS, overrule the DEC as it attempts to fulfil its mandated role and take away the rights of lakeside Towns and Villages is intended to hide their inattention to serious problems with their drinking water supply.

Chautauqua Lake is classified as an “impaired water body” but the Chautauqua Utility District (CUD) continues to draw drinking water from the Lake for Institution residents and visitors with no plans to change to a more reliable and safe water source.

Chautauqua Institution has a serious problem with blue green algae (cyanobacteria) toxin and, based on recent water tests, with non-permitted herbicide drinking water contamination. We can’t allow them to confuse the latter with intensely studied and DEC-permitted herbicide use, needed by communities in many parts of the lake, herbicide use which has been proven to have no effect on the Institution’s water supply.

What has the Institution done to ensure their drinking water supplier, the CUD, can effectively detect and remove the blue green algae (cyanobacteria) toxins known to threaten their water supply? We hope improvements have been made since the Institution/CUD had to implement water use restrictions for its residents in September, 2017.

The CUD’s recently-retired Director stated that it cannot effectively detect and remove herbicides entering their water supply. However, as long as Chautauqua Lake is its drinking water source, it appears they must be able to do just that. Triclopyr, the active ingredient in some aquatic herbicides, was found at the CUD’s Chautauqua Lake intake at over half the drinking water threshold on June 10, 2018, the day before Town herbicide treatments many miles down-lake from the intake. The Institution and CUD were unaware of this contamination until the Chautauqua Lake Partnership provided the information a few weeks later and, to our knowledge, still has yet to share this information with residents or visitors.

What has the Institution/CUD done to identify and eliminate the mid-June 2018 source of triclopyr along its shoreline and protect its residents from the associated threat? Does the Institution/CUD have a contingency plan to supply safe drinking water to its residents in case of a short-term contamination event? We suggest Institution residents ask and get answers to these questions.

In spite of these concerns, the CUD and Chautauqua Institution continue to draw drinking water from the Lake and have stated that they have no plans for a change to a reliable and safe source. And, aside from having minimal impact on the necessary reduction in algae and weed-feeding nutrients, the Institution’s long-overdue stormwater-management projects, rain gardens, retention ponds and the like, do not address their current drinking water safety issues.

We understand and acknowledge the critical nature of the Institution/CUD drinking water supply. For the sake of its residents and visitors, we suggest the Institution focus on finding solutions to these problems instead of ignoring the desires and needs of the majority of Chautauqua Lake residents, users and lakeside Towns and Villages, ignoring the expertise and authority of the DEC and perpetuating the non-productive cycle of in-depth environmental study, lawsuit and ineffective lake management which has prevented the improvement of Chautauqua Lake for the past 30 years.

Chautauqua Lake Partnership

Officers, Directors and Advisers

Dr. Jim Cirbus, President

Jim Wehrfritz, Vice President

Mike Latone, Treasurer

Becca Haines, Secretary

Dr. Tom Erlandson, Science Advisor (Biology/Zoology)

Dr. Doug Neckers, Science Advisor (Chemistry)

JoDee Johnson, Regulatory Advisor

Frank Nicotra, Regulatory Advisor

Paul Johnson, Project Advisor

R. Craig Butler, Project, Advisor (past CLA Director and President)

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