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DEC plan calls for 30% phosphorous reduction for Cayuga Lake watershed

In what has been described in the past as a “pollution diet,” New York state’s environmental protection agency has completed the draft of a Total Maximum Daily Load plan for Cayuga Lake that calls for a 30% reduction in phosphorous.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation released the Cayuga Lake draft TMDL plan on Wednesday, the latest stage in a process that officially started in early 2017 but has roots in the lake’s southern end being listed as an “imperiled water body” in 2002.

“DEC is committed to protecting Cayuga Lake and sources of drinking water statewide from pollutants that could damage long-term water quality,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a press release. “The measure proposed today to significantly reduce Cayuga watershed’s phosphorus loads will be instrumental to safeguarding the long-term health of the lake and helping prevent water quality impairments like harmful algal blooms, excessive weed growth, and turbidity. The TMDL pollution budget will be the basis for an implementation plan to cooperatively achieve pollution reduction requirements.”

The plan is now subject to a 45-day public comment period. A virtual public meeting on the draft is scheduled for April 19.

The 93-page draft TMDL says phosphorous reduction is key to improving the lake’s quality, which in recent summers has been hit hard by harmful algal blooms. Environmental scientists have been studying how phosphorous gets into the lake and identifying targets for recommended best management practices to reduce the loading.

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