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By John Addyman

LYONS (Sep 7 10) – An algae bloom that was “abnormal, more intense and lasted longer than normal” brought six Sodus Bay landowners to the Wayne County Supervisors' Public Works Committee session this morning, asking for answers, cooperation and assistance.

Chairman Steve LeRoy promised to convene a public meeting within two weeks to discuss all the issues that arose from this summer’s month-long bloom, which became an event.

That bloom not only created a mess in the water, it also raised toxicity levels to the point where people got sick or developed rashes.

Landowners and residents wanted to discuss things with Tom DeRue, the acting director of the Soil and Water Conservation District. They wanted to know why the bloom had been so severe, why better notice wasn’t offered about poor water quality, what was being done to fix the problem now and prevent it from recurring.

DeRue reported to the committee that his department is busy harvesting vegetation from Sodus Bay and East Bay and will continue through this week into next

“It’s been a very exciting last two-three weeks,” DeRue said. “And there’s also been a feeling of helplessness.” As a result of the issues raised about water quality, a “very deliberate and usable hotline” had been established.

What needed to come next was “more and better ways” for his workers to access the bay areas to clean out the weeds. He said harvesting effectiveness could increase if the county had a transport barge, which would be expensive.

“A lot of cottage owners are reluctant to grant us access,” he said, noting that the equipment is heavy. “We don’t have a lot of access. One way or another we’re going to do it (clean out the weeds) – we have to.”

Laurie Verbridge wanted to know what the water quality was now, and criticized the county for its “lack of communication to residents about the safety of the water – we shouldn’t have been swimming in it for two weeks.”

“Everyone at this (committee) table would tell you we have to improve,” agreed DeRue. “But we were rookies at this – this is a first-time experience for us. We can’t let (the county’s recenet response) happen a second time because mark my words, (this kind of bloom) will happen a second time.”

Verbridge asked where water samples were taken and what their results were. DeRue told her the information from those sample “wouldn’t have helped because there were other factors.” Verbridge said residents would take water samples themselves if that would help.

“The real concern is the water quality when I take my grandchildren down there,” said Verbridge. “A dog died.”

“What has the county done to prevent the problem?” asked Lyle Maldoon.

“It’s not preventable,” said DeRue, noting that half the contaminants that produced the bloom are in the sediment core of the bay. “We can’t do much about that, short of dredging,” he said. “The contaminants have been there for two or three generations. We can’t change that overnight.”

Maldoon said he was thinking long term and would like to have his children and grandchildren see clean waters in the bay. “I’m looking for a first step,” he said.

“We’ve done the first step,” said DeRue, “we’re doing aquatic harvesting. The second step is chemical treatment, and we’ve done less of that in the last few years. We need to look at it again, but there are concerns about that from cottage owners and the Department of Environmental Conservation.

“The third step is the outer watershed, and we have an agriculture program with active practices on farms in the Greater Sodus Bay watershed. It’s not like anybody’s overlooked the watershed. We’ve also looked at water runoff.

Maldoon pushed the committee to develop a plan. “I look for the county to develop a plan and take it to the state and get the money we need.” He said another similar area, Fairhaven, had sewers around its bay – and no problem. “Now’s the time to get started. We saw what happens. Let’s hope my kids and grandkids don’t see it in 15 years.”

“You’re talking to the choir,” said DeRue.

Ron Bill said he had waded into the water to pull weeds himself, but the county equipment never came through to pick them up. “The water is in such bad shape I can’t go out and do it again,” he told the committee, “it would probably kill me.”

“The owners would like a spirit of cooperation,” Alice Bill told the committee. “We asked the county to collect the weeds and we didn’t feel like a spirit of cooperation was there.”

“There were a lot of mixed-up communications,” explained DeRue.

“We need to know what the water quality is before we go in and cut the weeds,” said Ron Bill. “We need to know the risk.”

Faye Kruse asked DeRue to check into what the golf course is using on its grounds. “They’re using a lot of herbicides and pesticides and fertilizer,” she felt. “Something should be done. They should be monitored. And the sand bar should have sewage holding tanks.”

Huron Supervisor Laurie Crane said she had spent weeks trying to get answers for residents from the DEC and the state Department of Health, who pointed fingers at each other when asked about jurisdiction in addressing the problems. “I couldn’t get direct answers to questions people were asking,” she said. “One state official told me no one should even be showering with bay water. Ever.”

“I put bay water on my lawn,” said Maldoon. “It’s the best fertilizer I can get.”


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  1. Anonymous Said,

    Here we go again- blaming everything on the sand bar. If you will check Ms. Kruse, holding tanks are in use there. If YOU are not on the sewer system, then you are polluting.

    Posted on Wed Sep 08, 06:36:00 AM EDT

  2. Anonymous Said,

    Huron is the only town that has a septic law. Time for sodus to be responsible.Sand bar cottages also need to be held accountable like it or not. Huron needs to enforce law.

    Also concentrated dumping of manure in the winter by factory farmers near the bay that started this year needs to be stopped or researched. If it was just temp. why did fair haven not have this probelm?
    The bloom could come faster next year if action is not taken. How about Aug. 1st

    Posted on Wed Sep 08, 12:49:00 PM EDT

  3. Anonymous Said,

    To Tom DeRue: You should stop cutting weeds and concentrate on collecting. There are cottage owners on Sodus Bay that take the time to push the rotting,smelling weeds off ther shore, only to have them blown back by the prevailing wind. This is happening right now near the boat launch at Margureta Rd.(rt. 14).One of your cutters has been parked at Arney's Marina for two days, not that a away. Yes,this is at least the forth time I have "bitc--" about this, so, as you said in the meeting in Lyons last tuesday, "atfter the third time, we ignor you". Thanks for all your effort.

    Posted on Fri Sep 10, 10:06:00 AM EDT

  4. Anonymous Said,

    It makes no difference, about collecting the weeds if the farms go unchecked and cont. to dump all winter long along with fertilizers. With the spring comes a concentrated bolus of nutrients into the bay. This year was a perfect storm for the bloom but, it could happen again with our shorter winters and warmer springs.
    The nutrients at the bottom of the bay have always been there and is natural and good. It is what has tipped the balance is the question?

    Posted on Fri Sep 10, 11:02:00 AM EDT


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