The US Clean Water Act (1972) requires states to assess their water bodies for impairments. If an impairment is found, a TMDL (Pemediation Plan) must be prepared to take specific actions to deal with the impairment to hopefully get the waterbody back to an acceptable water quality standard. An assessment was completed thanks to the CLA’s long term participation in the NYSDEC/NYSFOLA (Federation of Lake Associations) Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program (CSLAP). CLA’s volunteers implemented monitoring and financial support of the program made the monitoring feasible and produced the data necessary to analyze the water quality data. The CLA’s continued participation in the program will be a critical aspect of being able to determine if the TMDL actions are successful.
We commonly recognize that the biggest problem facing lake water quality is nutrient loading. The impairment designation confirms that total phosphorus is the major pollutant of concern causing the impairment. (Nitrogen comes in a close second and may up having to have a TMDL formed for it someday. Nitrogen is a harder element to address.) Thus the TMDL for total phosphorus.
The TMDL recommends a number of voluntary actions and includes specific requirements of entities holding state permits for water discharges into Chautauqua Lake. The biggest impact will be upon sewer districts that will have to add special treatment processes. This will be expensive and will require significant rate increases for some. The alternative option is to do nothing and watch water quality worsen. New requirements will also be placed upon holders of storm water permits.
The TMDL is not the end all. Its importance is that it obligates actions, identifies goals and establishes a firm and identifiable base from which other actions can then be developed. It sets the tone and rationality for towns and villages to implement programs that have been recommended for years but have not had the motivation to actually make them happen. The TMDL gets the community over the hump of deciding whether or not to do something and if so what, and into the frame of mind of moving forward and doing. The largest complaint that we’ve heard is that people are tired of studies and want action. The TMDL now moves us into the action realm.