A recent letter to state officials makes it clear that the Town of Torrey continues to have concerns about water quality downstream from the Penn Yan Waste Water Treatment plant.
Given the opportunity to respond to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation regarding changes to the State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) Permit for Penn Yan’s Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP), the Town of Torrey Board sent a letter to the DEC Jan. 10, expressing their concerns about the impact discharge from the plant has on water quality in Seneca Lake.
Signed by Torrey Supervisor Patrick Flynn and addressed to Teresa Diehsner of the DEC in Albany, the Torrey Board expresses general and specific problems with the permit and the effect on Torrey’s shoreline. “The WWTP releases its effluent into the Keuka Outlet affecting the shoreline residents source of potable water,” states the letter.
Penn Yan Mayor Leigh MacKerchar was not aware of the letter, but he says posing questions for DEC officials to answer can lead to better information for all interested parties.
Currently, Seneca Lake in this area is rated Class B, because of this contamination, while the rest of the lake enjoys a Class AA rating and provides a drinking water source to 100,000 people.
“Another concern is the close proximity of the town park and public beach area which is used for public swimming and summer youth programs. There is also a seven-mile nature trail along the outlet which the public enjoys and provides an economic benefit to the adjacent businesses,” the letter continues.
“The importance of the health of the Keuka Outlet to the residents of the Town of Torrey cannot be overstated. Recent additions to the Village of Penn Yan of three (3) 60-room hotels, as well as the approval of 40 condominium units and the addition of the KANPAK manufacturing facility gives rise to increased concerns about the amount of effluent released into the outlet and the further contamination of the drinking supply.
“The WWTP compliance history shows it is already exceeding their existing SPDES permit limits, while the new permit corrects this by increasing the allowable limits.”
In their pursuit of two public water supply districts along the contaminated shore of Seneca Lake, Torrey recently sampled 30 residents’ water sources north and south of the Keuka Outlet’s mouth. “The bacteriological report showed positive tests for E coli and coliform in 80 percent of the cases,” they state in the letter.
In summary, Torrey noted the following items:
• The Keuka Outlet is not just a recreation source (as classified in the permit) but a drinking water contributor
• The Keuka Outlet is 35 percent of the inflow to Seneca Lake
• August 24,2017 there was a 35,000 gallon (sewage) spill into the Keuka Outlet
• There is no mechanism in place to alert shoreline residents in the event of another spill.
• New permit levels allow a 35 percent increase in phosphorous, which, combined with the warm water discharge from a downstream power plant will certainly increase the Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) in the Dresden area. Most of the 60 blooms in the 2017 report were certified to contain high toxins.
• New permit requires no more than 200 coliform colonies per 100 ml, but current certified testing shows this number to exceed 100,000
• WWTP current disinfection system is unused; the proposed WWTP disinfection system is required to be online only six months of the year disregarding the fact it is a drinking water source 12 months of the year.
• The remediation required in the new permit is to occur by May 1, 2022 is too long based on the current conditions.
Seeking public comment is part of the state DEC’s process for permit renewals.
The plant’s current SPDES permit became effective on Feb. 1, 2012 and has an expiration date of Jan. 31, 2017. The village applied for the renewal in September 2017, around the time of a spill from the facility that resulted in treated sludge being discharged into the Keuka Outlet.
In other business at the Jan. 9 Torrey Board Meeting:
• Water District #1: The finalized application for the creation of the district has been sent to the State Comptroller for financial approval. One committee member noted this has taken 21 years since it was first proposed.
• Personnel: The appointments and compensations for 2018 were approved as a slate.
• Highway: The planned purchase of a new Volvo truck and Viking plow gear was approved. The possible replacement of the 26-year-old Gradall with a used one from the Town of Milo is being explored.