A group of Seneca Lake residents is asking the Yates County Legislature to support their efforts to improve the quality of water in the Keuka Outlet and in their portion of Seneca Lake.

Eileen Moreland, who has been communicating with local and state officials for several years about her concerns for the safety of the lake water in the outlet and within one mile north and south of the outlet, told legislators Monday the last time the water was classified was in 1953.

The main body of Seneca Lake is classified as AA. According to information found on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s website, the water in the Keuka Outlet is classified as C., and one mile north and south of the outlet in the lake is classified B. The water in tributaries to the Keuka Outlet are classified as D.

According to the DEC website, the classification AA or A is assigned to waters used as a source of drinking water. Classification B indicates a best usage for swimming and other contact recreation, but not for drinking water. Classification C is for waters supporting fisheries and suitable for non - contact activities.

Moreland and her husband, John, live on Arrowhead Beach Road, north of the village of Dresden. Telling the legislature they are concerned about testing that finds E coli in water samples from the outlet, they say the best way to improve the outlet’s water is to require year-round disinfection of the effluent from the Penn Yan Sewage Treatment Plant, which uses UV treatment six months of the year.

The plant is permitted by the state Department of Environmental Conservation to discharge effluent into the Keuka Outlet downstream from Cherry Street.

The Morelands, and others who addressed the legislature during the public comment portion of the meeting urged the legislature to ask the DEC to change the deadline for the Village of Penn Yan to install an ultra violet disinfection process at the wastewater treatment plant. The plant is operating under a Consent Order after sludge was spilled into an area that drains into the outlet in August 2017. Under that order and subsequent requirements from the DEC, the village will be required to have ultraviolet equipment installed by 2022. 

While the wastewater treatment plant is permitted to discharge treated sewage into the Keuka Outlet, there are also multiple tributaries that pass through agricultural land on the way to the outlet as other sources of pollution. To see an interactive map of New York State’s waterways with their classifications, visit www.dec.ny.gov/gis/erm.

Others who spoke brought up concerns about the retention pond at the Greenidge Generation Landfill which is also permitted to discharge overflow into the Keuka Outlet, and the Greenidge Generation freshwater intake and discharge system.

District IV Legislator Bill Holgate, of the Town of Starkey, which includes Seneca lakefront, drew applause from the audience when he commented, “If the Keuka Outlet flowed the opposite way, more would be done.”

His comment also drew support from Legislator Terry Button, who represents the Town of Torrey in District II, where Arrowhead Beach Road and a portion of the Keuka Outlet is located.

District III Legislator Dan Banach, also a member of the Penn Yan Municipal Utilities Board, said the village is looking for help to pay for the $2 million cost of installing the equipment.

Legislative Chairman Doug Paddock said the county has no power over the DEC, and noted that the legislature has agreed to provide funds for the creation of a 9-Element Plan for the Seneca Lake watershed, which includes the Keuka Outlet and Keuka Lake. 

The legislators took no action on the issue.

Other business at the May 13 meeting included:

• Hiring: Legislators authorized Sheriff Ronald Spike to fill a vacant Deputy Sheriff position with Button and District I Legislator Elden Morrison casting “no” votes. Morrison said he has previously objected to filling vacant deputy positions because he believes data proves the department is overstaffed. “This body continues to ignore the objective data,” he said. Others disagreed with him, saying they have heard his objections in the past, and they have also listened to other information from the sheriff.

District III Legislator Leslie Church said, “You’re implying that we don’t listen to your arguments. Over and over again we have listened to your arguments.”

The legislators authorized the filling of seven other vacancies in various departments.

• Opposition: The legislators adopted a resolution opposing the Drivers License Access and Privacy Act, which if enacted into state law, would permit undocumented individuals in the U.S. illegally to obtain a New York State Driver’s License.