State Rapid Response Team A Welcome Partner To The Table

Today’s January 3, 2018, editorial about the governor’s proposed State Water Quality Rapid Response Team (SWQRRT) formation to address Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) via regional venues caught my eye. Please be assured that the Chautauqua Lake Association (CLA) has no interest in involving politics or histrionics in the initiative. In fact we have been in contact with both the governor’s office and the Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to pledge our cooperation.

HABs have been a major concern to the CLA for several years now. We have committed hundreds of volunteer hours and $28,000 of donor funds to pay laboratory fees during the last three years. For three years prior to that Chautauqua Institution covered our laboratory fees. Concurrently we have committed volunteer hours to the joint NYSDEC-NYS Federation of Lakes Association (NYSFOLA) HAB monitoring program during the past decade. It is the data from these programs, along with the fact that Chautauqua Institution and Chautauqua Lake Estates draw their drinking water from Chautauqua Lake, that caused Chautauqua Lake to be one of the only three lakes in Western New York to be selected for the SWQRRT’s focus. These programs will be continuing in 2018 and made available to the SWQRRT’s data gathering process.

During the course of these monitoring programs we have worked closely with SUNY ESF, NYSDEC, NYSFOLA and the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services. We have also kept the Chautauqua County Water Quality Task Force advised of findings and activities. Of recent we have also welcomed SUNY Fredonia to the table with its new algal investigation effort. Although we are the only organization that is collecting the specific scientific data, we recognize that we are all in this together and work in a collaborative manner with the various involved entities. We understand the problem, the water chemistry that is involved, the threat that exists, the unknowns that need to be addressed and welcome the SWQRRT coming to the table. We view this new state initiative to be a welcome aid towards addressing the HAB challenge.

We have also established a HAB informational tab on our website and have utilized our Facebook page to post special summertime findings. Through my involvement with the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) I have kept abreast of HAB actions that have occurred in the eight member states and at USEPA. ORSANCO has a specific HAB protocol which I and NYSDEC were involved in formulating due to the emergence of HABs on the Ohio River. Again, it has been a process of collaboration and cooperation. I do not foresee that the SWQRRT program will be any different.

Doug Conroe is president of the Chautauqua Lake Association.