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Source: Rochester City Newspaper

ENVIRONMENT: Feds set aside money for Great Lakes cleanup


Posted: November 18, 2009
Originally Published: November 18, 2009

There is no shortage of environmental problems with the Rochester Embayment, a recessed section of Lake Ontario that stretches from Parma to Webster. The Embayment is listed as a federal area of concern because of the negative effects of the water quality on fish and wildlife populations, the added cost of treating water for municipal use, and other issues.

There have been projects to improve the Embayment over the years, but money has been lacking. Late last month, however, President Obama signed legislation that funds a five-year effort to restore the Great Lakes - in the first year it allocates $475 million.

Dereth Glance, program director for the advocacy group Citizens Campaign for the Environment, says that a financial commitment to Great Lakes restoration is long overdue.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency will use a competitive process to award the funds. New York State environmental officials say that they will pursue the federal money, with restoring the Rochester Embayment as a top priority.

Tests, some going back to the late 1960's, have shown significant sediment and water contamination in the Embayment. The EPA designated it as an area of concern in 1987, and the County Department of Health developed and finalized a partially implemented remedial plan.

Other efforts have been made to improve the Embayment, too, says Ray Yacuzzo, a special assistant to the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Heavy metals and organic substances have built up as toxic sediment in the Embayment, and there's also the issue of pollution from runoff, which puts nutrients and bacteria into the water. To address that, environmental agencies will have to identify the sources, particularly of nutrients.

Water-quality problems at local beaches would be part of any cleanup effort, too. Durand-Eastman and Ontario beaches are within the Embayment, and this summer both were closed more often than they were open.