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Local News

May 15, 2014

Schumer to EPA: Help us fight toxic lake algae

A summer marked by long dry spells is not on Norwich Mayor Joseph Maiurono’s wish list.

That’s because the source of Norwich’s drinking water is Chenango Lake, a shallow body of water that has been afflicted in previous droughts with blooms of blue green algae, which can release cyanotoxins that sicken people and pets.

“When the water is stagnant is when we have a problem” said Maiurono. “We test for it all the time. It becomes a big problem when we have a drought.”

Chenango Lake is on a list of nearly 100 New York lakes with occasional algae blooms that was released Wednesday by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. He told reporters in a conference call from his Washington office that he wants the Environmental Protection Agency to set standards for cyanotoxins in lakes so New York can become eligible for federal help in combating blue green algae.

“It’s time to combat the growing algae problem head on,” the senator said.

He said the problem is expected to manifest itself soon.

“We have a problem looming,” he said. “Very soon, toxic algae blooms are set to crop up across our state.”

Other lakes in the region where blue green algae was reported in 2012 and 2013 were Summit Lake in Schoharie County, Echo Lake in Chenango County and two in Delaware County, Somerset Lake and Titus Lake.

Schumer said more than a dozen countries, including Canada, test drinking water for cyanotoxins, but the EPA has no such regulations. The senator said he is also pushing the EPA to create water quality criteria for cyanotoxins in ambient water, which will help states identify contaminated water bodies.

Asked if the state Department of Environmental Conservation should be involved in the fight, Schumer said the agency is too “stretched” and “we need the feds to step in.”

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