EPA Approves New York State’s List of Impaired Waters

June 30, 2010
Long Island’s South Shore Estuary and Lake Ontario new entries on the list

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the 2010 list of waters in New York State that are considered either impaired or threatened by pollutants. An impaired water body is one that does not meet water quality standards even after pollution controls have been put in place. A threatened water body is one that is expected to be impaired within two years.

The list helps to set priorities for addressing current water pollution threats. The Clean Water Act requires states to assess the quality of their waters and to report their findings every two years to EPA. The list is compiled by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and is a valuable tool for reaching the Clean Water Act goal of “fishable and swimmable” waters for all of New York State, EPA said.

“Identifying and prioritizing the state’s most seriously polluted waters are important steps in the effort to reduce water pollution,” said Judith Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “In the almost 40 years since the Clean Water Act was adopted, water quality in many of the state’s rivers, lakes and streams has improved; but we still have a very long way to go. The list of impaired waters helps governments, concerned citizens and businesses take action to reach the goal of being able to safely fish and swim in all of our waters.”

The list specifically includes impaired waters for which the development of a total maximum daily load (TMDL), a budget for water pollution, is necessary. TMDLs define the maximum amount of a pollutant that a water body can receive and still meet water quality standards. They are developed by states and approved by EPA once the agency determines that the TMDL will allow the water body to achieve water quality standards.

New York’s 2010 list identifies 828 instances in which a pollutant is causing an impairment of a water body that keeps it from supporting its “designated use” for drinking water, swimming and recreation, fishing or other activities specified by the state. The most common pollutants causing impairment include pH (21% of impairments), PCBs (14%), dissolved oxygen (13%), phosphorus (13%) and pathogens (11.5%).

The list also notes the most common sources of water pollutants, including urban/storm water runoff (255 impairments), contaminated sediment (222), air pollution, including acid rain (183), municipal sources (100) and combined sewer overflows from systems that capture both domestic sewage and storm water (75). A pollutant may come from more than one source.

New additions on the 2010 list include waters in Long Island’s South Shore Estuary, shore areas of Lake Ontario and water bodies contiguous with the lands of several Native American Nations, including the Onondaga, Tonawanda Seneca, and St. Regis Mohawk.

Source: U.S. EPA

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