U.S. EPA RAP Liaison
U.S. EPA Region 2
New York, NY 10007-1866
State RAP Contact
Great Lakes Manager
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
270 Michigan Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14203
Local RAP Coordinator
Monroe Co. Department of Health
P.O. Box 92832
111 Westfall R0ad - Room 962
Rochester, NY 14692-4680
- City of Rochester
- Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County
- Counties in the Genesee River/ Rochester Embayment Watershed
- Eastman Kodak Company
- Finger Lakes-Lake Ontario Watershed Protection Alliance (FL-LOWPA)
- Great Lakes Research Consortium
- Monroe County
- Department of Environmental Services
- Department of Health
- Department of Parks
- Department of Planning and Development
- Department of Transportation
- Soil and Water Conservation District
- Water Quality Coordinating Committee
- Water Quality Management Agency
- Natural Resources Conservation Service
- New York Sea Grant
- New York State Canal Corporation
- New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
- Rochester Area Community Foundation
- Rochester Gas and Electric Company
- Rochester Institute of Technology
- Sierra Club
- State University of New York (SUNY) at Brockport
- The Nature Conservancy
- U.S. EPA – Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO)
- U.S. EPA, Region 2 - New York City
- Genesee / Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council
- University of Rochester
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
- U.S. Geological Survey
- Beneficial Use Impairments
- Delisting Targets
- RAP Development and Status
- Significant RAP Milestones
- RAP Implementation
- RAP-Related Publications
- Community Involvement
You will need the free Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more.
The Rochester Embayment is an area of formed by the indentation of the Monroe County (New York) shoreline between Bogus Point in the town of Parma and Nine Mile Point in the town of Webster, both in Monroe County. The northern boundary of the embayment is delineated by the straight line between these two points. The southern boundary includes approximately 9.6 km (6 miles) of the Genesee River that is influenced by lake levels, from the river's mouth to the Lower Falls. The drainage area of the embayment is more than 3,000 square miles (7,770 km2) in area. This area consists of the entire Genesee River Basin and parts of two other drainage basins; the easternmost area of the Lake Ontario West Basin and the westernmost area of the Lake Ontario Central Basin.
In the 1981 report of the Water Quality Board of the International; Joint Commission, the Rochester Embayment of Lake Ontario was identified as a Class B Area of Concern (AOC) with "… moderate violations of water quality objectives and some indications of fish contamination in Rochester Harbor and Irondequoit Bay. Surveys of the harbor from 1967 to 1973 found some of the sediments to be heavily polluted with metals and phosphorus." (GLWQB 1981). In its 1985 report the water quality board designated the Rochester Embayment a category 4 Area of Concern, indicating "Causative factors known, but remedial action plan not developed and remedial measures not fully implemented," identifying embayment problems as conventional pollutants, heavy metals, toxic organic substances, contaminated sediments, and fish consumption advisories. The report also identified pollutant sources as municipal and industrial point sources, combined sewage overflows, and in-place pollutants.
The Monroe County Department of Health takes the lead role in implementing the Remedial Action Plan (RAP) for the Rochester Embayment Area of Concern.
Beneficial Use Impairments
The Stage I RAP confirmed the existence of twelve beneficial use impairments (BUI) and identified two other use impairments that will require further investigation to determine their presence. Because the AOC was evaluated for use impairments in two separate portions, the lower river and the embayment, some use impairments have been identified in one or both of the portions: either the Lower Genesee River and/or the Rochester Embayment.
For further information and details on all of the BUIs, see a corresponding Rochester Embayment Beneficial Use Impairments (PDF) (2pp, 67K) and the Remedial Action Plan (RAP) documents listed in the Significant RAP Milestones section.
- Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
- Eutrophication or undesirable algae
- Restrictions on drinking water consumption, or taste and odor
- Degradation of fish and wildlife populations
- Beach closings
- Degradation of aesthetics
- Bird or animal deformities or reproduction problems
- Added costs to agriculture or industry
- Degradation of benthos*
- Degradation of phytoplankton and zooplankton populations*
- Restriction on dredging activities
- Loss of fish and wildlife habitat
* Lower Genesee River Impaired: Embayment Needs Study
In addition two beneficial uses need further assessment to determined their status:
- Tainting of fish and wildlife flavor (further assessment needed)
- Fish tumors or other deformities (further assessment needed)
The Rochester Remedial Action Plan Oversight Committee, a subcommittee of the Monroe County Water Quality Coordinating Committee, is the local organization with the responsibility to initiate the BUI delisting process. The RAP Oversight Committee will work with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the International Joint Commission throughout the process to determine whether or not a BUI is restored and if it should be delisted from the AOC. The RAP Oversight Committee intends that identified targets and indicators be updated annually, and that they will be used to document a "body of evidence" that a BUI is being restored. In some cases, all targets listed for a BUI may be met before delisting is initiated. In other cases, a majority of the targets may be met, and the RAP Oversight Committee could decide that it is either not possible to attain certain targets or that they are no longer necessary to restore the BUI.
Delisting criteria were developed by subcommittees of the Water Quality Management Advisory Committee before its merger with the Water Quality Coordinating Committee in 2002. Each subcommittee was comprised of individuals from agencies having expertise in the area of the beneficial use impairment. The subcommittees examined the best available information concerning the beneficial use impairments, including the information and assumptions that led to listing in the Stage I RAP, and any additional information developed after the Stage I and Two RAPS, and reached consensus over what criteria would need to be met to delist. As an ancillary to this process, possible monitoring methods for determining that the criteria were met were also developed. This BUI delisting criteria table (PDF) (6pp, 106K) describes the results of this work.
RAP Development and Status
The RAP was updated by a RAP Addendum (1999) and a Status Report update document (March 2001), and a second addendum. (December 2002). A third addendum is in preparation.
Among the six AOCs in New York, the Rochester Embayment RAP is unique in that it was developed by Monroe County, under contract with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). The Monroe County Department of Health, Bureau of Water Quality Planning, has led this effort in coordinating the RAP process and writing the RAP documents. Throughout the planning process, it has been recognized that public participation is critical in order to insure community support for the RAP. The RAP has established a sound base to proceed with an ecosystem approach to achieve restoration of beneficial uses. NYSDEC has provided assistance in the process and, in conjunction with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), has also provided partial grant funding to facilitate RAP development.
A RAP Technical Group was established in 1988 to guide the writing of the Stage I RAP that was researched and actually written by a consultant team. In 1993, the RAP Technical Group was folded into a County Water Quality Coordinating Committee that took on the role of guiding the writing of the Stage II RAP. Stakeholder groups were also involved in the writing, with the primary advisory group being Monroe County's Water Quality Management Advisory Committee (WQMAC). Public input and participation were accomplished through WQMAC. A Government Policy Group consisting of elected officials was also involved in reacting to Stage I policy level issues related to the RAP. Work on the Stage II RAP was led by the Monroe County Department of Health and has been completed. The final Stage II RAP document was completed in 1997. A Stage II Addendum was published in 1999, and a second addendum was published in December of 2002. The major feature of the 2002 Addendum was the completed Use Impairment Delisting Criteria and Monitoring Methods. During 2002, the Water Quality Management Advisory Committee was disbanded and members still interested in tracking RAP issues were offered membership on the Water Quality Coordinating Committee. Under funding from the U.S. EPA, in 2003 the Remedial Action Plan Oversight Committee was formed, and began work by revisiting the Delisting Criteria and Monitoring methods, developing a matrix of recommended actions useful in tracking what has been completed and what remains to be finished.
Significant RAP Milestones
- 2006: Public meeting on status, and to solicit input on remedial measures and ranking.
- 2005: RAP Addendum in process, expected in 2006.
- 2004: Remedial Action Plan Oversight Committee reinstated; discussion begun on ways to get monitoring recommended for evaluating beneficial use impairments.
- 2002: 2002 RAP Addendum published; delisting criteria and monitoring methods approved by Water Quality Coordinating Committee and Water Quality Management Agency.
- 2001: RAP Status Report Update completed.
- 1999: 1999 RAP Addendum published including new remedial measure analysis and recommendations.
- 1997: Monroe County publishes final Stage II RAP document.
- 1997: Monroe County and NYSDEC agree to final Stage II RAP content based on comments from the WQMAC and the WQCC.
- 1997: WQMAC completes its review of the Stage II RAP.
- 1997: Stage II RAP Public Meeting and Implementation Workshop held.
- 1997: Final Draft Stage II RAP document completed.
- 1993: Stage I RAP document completed
Recent progress and achievements
Past and current RAP activities include lawn care and wetland education, a new water quality education collaborative organization, pollution prevention for auto recyclers and dentists, volunteer stream and marsh monitoring programs, advancement of phosphorus removal at small wastewater treatment facilities, a streambank erosion assessment program, and monitoring of trophic status of the near nearshore of the Rochester Embayment. Two watershed planning projects have been completed and three more are underway. A Monroe County Stormwater Coalition was formed to plan for compliance with Federal Phase II Stormwater Regulations. Completed projects include several point and nonpoint source pollution abatement projects, extensive combined sewer overflow abatement, and a mercury pollution prevention project.
Hazardous Waste Site Remediation
Since publication of the Stage II Remedial Action Plan, five sites originally classified as significant threats to public health or the environment and in need of action have been classified as properly closed, but requiring continued management, and an additional seven sites have been removed from the registry. However, 11 sites have been added to the list, seven of which are classified as significant threats to public health or the environment and in need of action, three of which have inadequate or insufficient data for inclusion in the other classifications, and one which does not present a significant threat to the public health or environment.
The former 3M/Dynacolor Plant Former G.E. and Black & Decker Site in Brockport, NY, manufacturing facilities used by many companies prior to the early 1950s, were indicated as sources of PCBs, SVOCs, cyanide and metals found in an unnamed tributary of Brockport Creek, which is a tributary of the Salmon Creek watershed in the western Embayment. Investigation and remediation of the creek contamination was ultimately addressed by the Potentially Responsible Parties. Extensive soil/sediment removals were completed along the entire length of the open channel portions of the tributary. Approximately 2000 feet of storm sewer was also replaced along with removal of soils adjacent to the pipe. NYSDEC issued a Proposed Remedial Action Plan for the off-site drainageway operable unit during March 2005. PCBs in sediment in the storm sewer system have been reduced to less than 1 ppm. The effectiveness of the on-site PCB IRMs is being monitored using sediment trap sampling. A fish tissue sampling program is also in place to monitor PCB levels in fish in Brockport Creek. Baseline fish tissue monitoring was performed prior to drainageway sediment removal and is continuing at least through 2006.
The Rochester Embayment was indicated as suffering from the Eutrophication or Undesirable Algae use impairment in the Stage I RAP, due to cladophora and other filamentous algae growing in the littoral zone of the embayment. This impairment was also indicated as contributing to other impairments; drinking water taste and odor problems, beach closings, degradation of aesthetics, and degradation of phytoplankton and zooplankton populations. Interviews conducted with New York State Parks and Recreation staff from Lake Ontario shoreline Parks and with members of lake county Soil and Water Conservation District staff indicated that this use impairment might not be unique to the Rochester Embayment and in 2000, funding was sought to reexamine the Lake Ontario shoreline from the air as had been done during the International Field Year on the Great Lakes study, in this case using hyperspectral Imaging technology, to compare extent of algae beds from the two studies. This study, completed in 2002, indicated that cladophera beds in Lake Ontario were similar in 2000 and 2001 to those found during the IFYGL study, that the density and aerial extent of algae beds was a function of depth and bottom substrate, rather than a function of location within or outside of the Rochester Embayment, and that the amount of plant biomass normally found at Ontario Beach could be produced on hard bottom areas immediately to the west of the beach in the embayment.
Restrictions on dredging in the Rochester Embayment have been limited to overflow dredging, which has the potential to release toxins and bacteria back to the river and results in considerable local turbidity. Recent evaluation of sediment associated with open lake disposal has indicated that the material meets standards for open lake disposal. While the Stage II RAP listed the establishment of a permanent agreement with the United States Army Corps of Engineers prohibiting overflow dredging in the Genesee River as a delisting criterion, reductions in loadings of bacteria, nutrients and toxics to the river as a result of Combined Sewage Overflow Abatement, the inclusion of a prohibition against overflow dredging in permits issued by NYSDEC, and the general decline in the employment of overflow dredging throughout the Great Lakes may make this an unnecessary action.
Mitigation of the spill of approximately 30,000 gallons of solvents into and on an area adjacent to the Genesee River in Charlotte caused by derailment of a CSX train in December of 2001was completed in early December of 2004. Diesel fuel spilled on the site was recovered, but 16,000 gallons of methylene chloride and 14,100 gallons of acetone were lost. 28 tons of contaminated soils were removed from the banks of the river, and another 2000 tons of contaminated sediments were dredged from the river for offsite disposal.
Irondequoit Bay, one of the largest embayments along the south shore of Lake Ontario and an area tributary to the Rochester Embayment, suffered from hyper eutrophication in the mid 20th century as a result of accumulation of sediments containing the discharges from numerous small sewage works in the contributory watershed. Actions to restore Irondequoit Bay included the centralization of wastewater treatment and near-elimination of combined sewage overflows to the Bay. While this major action caused great improvement to bay water quality, internal cycling of sediment associated nutrients continued to degrade the quality of the bay. In 1986, the deeper areas of the bay were sealed with alum, and in 1993, under sponsorship of the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office, oxygenation of the bay was begun. Oxygenation continues for approximately 3 months of each summer, and provides a measure of treatment of this sediment accumulation. Initial indications were that oxygenation would serve to promote development of a healthy biota, especially grazers such as zooplankton that could remove algae growing in response to external phosphorus inputs in the epilimnion of the bay and transfer nutrient energy up the food chain to fish that would then out-migrate to Lake Ontario, recent research conducted by SUNY at Brockport under funding from the Great Lakes Research Consortium suggests that addition of oxygen is serving to mainly cause re-precipitation of manganous phosphates releasing from the sediments in the nearly anoxic conditions of the hypolimnion. These researchers have indicated that the data strongly suggests that the alum seal is exhausted, and that discontinuation of the addition of oxygen would allow release of phosphate bound to Iron at concentrations approximately an order of magnitude higher, leading to conditions in the metalimnion and lower epilimnion similar to those in the bay prior to Alum treatment. A final report detailing this research is expected in the spring of 2006.
Point Source Discharge Control
One of the strategies developed in the Stage II RAP to deal with the eutrophication or undesirable algae, drinking water taste and odor problems, beach closings, and degradation of aesthetics Beneficial Use Impairments involved development of a phosphorus point source management strategy. One aspect of this strategy targeted phosphorus discharges from small wastewater treatment plants discharging to streams tributary to the embayment or the river, where no phosphorus limits had been imposed in the permitting process.
In 2004, the Village of Churchville Waste Water Treatment plant was diverted to the Pure Waters system, eliminating a point source phosphorus discharge to Black Creek, a major tributary to the Genesee River. Also in 2004, a feasibility study for connection of the Village of Spencerport Waste Water Treatment plant to the Pure Waters system was completed, and the village is in process of making that conversion. While the Spencerport plant has been retrofitted with control equipment and had reduced its Phosphorus discharge significantly, the elimination of effluent from Northrup Creek is expected to contribute to the gradual recovery of the downstream receiving body, Long Pond, which drains to the western embayment. Finally, a similar effort is expected to result in the elimination of the Village of Scottsville WWTP, which discharges to Oatka Creek about 2 miles upstream from its junction with the Genesee River. After completion of these connections to the Pure Waters system, there will only be one small wastewater treatment plant still discharging to the Genesee River Basin in Monroe County, in the Village of Honeoye Falls.
The Gates Chili Ogden Wastewater Treatment Plant discharge to the Genesee River ended in 1998. While the NYSDEC report "30 Year Trends in Water Quality of Rivers and Streams in New York State" (Bode et al., 2004) indicated severe impact to areas of the river below the plant, more recent monitoring shows marked improvement since the plant has shut down, with the macroinvertebrate community on plates collected during the summer of 2004 dominated by clean-water mayflies.
Nonpoint Source Pollution Control
In response to the Federal Phase II Stormwater regulations, towns and villages classified as Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) in 2000 formed the Stormwater Coalition. By working together, Coalition members are able to comply with the federal stormwater regulations and improve water quality in a cost-effective manner. The Coalition implements a wide range of projects and programs that reduce stormwater pollution including public education, training for municipal employees, and assistance with stormwater system mapping. The Coalition partners with several agencies including the Monroe County Soil & Water Conservation District, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the Water Education Collaborative at the Rochester Museum & Science Center in order to utilize existing expertise in the community and maximize its efforts. The Coalition meets on a monthly basis and leadership is provided by a Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and Executive Committee. The Coalition has two staff persons that are housed at the Monroe County Department of Public Health. The work of the Coalition is advanced by 4 task groups: Construction, Education/Public Participation, Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination, and Pollution Prevention. The Coalition's work has been honored with an "Empire State Award for the Advancement of Stormwater Management" from New York State and a "Management Innovation Award" from the American Public Works Association. Coalition staff can be reached at 585-753-5472 or 585-753-5468.
A project to inventory and prioritize streambank erosion, the Soil Erosion Assessment project was completed by the Monroe County Soil and Water Conservation District. Town and Village Department's of Public Works were surveyed for areas along streams to identify problem areas, which were then surveyed using a standard form method to characterize the severity of the problems identified. Where funds and cost share were available, mitigation of high priority projects has occurred.
The Rochester Embayment 2002 Addendum proposed new remedial measures, and the first in the report was "Develop a Strategy for Reduction of Sediment in the Genesee River", which contained a proposal to advocate for a US Army Corps of Engineers sediment transport model for the Genesee River. The model would simulate erosion, transport, and deposition of sediments within the watershed. It would be used to evaluate and compare the effectiveness of control measures on the loadings of sediments and sediment-related contaminants, assist in planning efforts in local watersheds, and prioritize areas in the watershed that are contributing the larger portions of the sediment load. Recent communication from the US Army Corps of Engineers indicates that the model, which was funded under section 516(e) of the Water Resources Development Act, and covers process in the river from Mount Morris to the Lake, has been completed and will be transferred to the locality following meetings in the spring of 2006.
In response to the Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) Five Year Strategic Plan opportunity, the Monroe County Soil and Water Conservation District prepared a five-year plan based on priority watersheds within the county that have documented water quality concerns or have not been adequately assessed in the past. A key aspect of the Strategic Plan is to strengthen local partnerships to benefit the viability of agriculture in the county. Priority watersheds have been identified, and AEM outreach efforts will follow the schedule indicated in the AEM Strategic Plan. Farm owner/operators will continue to participate in the AEM program on a voluntary basis. The Strategic Plan will also become a part of the process by which cost-share funds for proposed conservation practice implementation projects are evaluated and awarded. Local cooperating partners include farm owner/operators, the Monroe County Water Quality Coordinating Committee; Black Creek Watershed Coalition; Oatka Creek Watershed Committee; Cornell Cooperative Extension; Natural Resource Conservation Service; Water Education Collaborative; Environmental Management Council; Farm Service Agency; Genesee-Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council; County Planning Department; and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. Nearly all of the included watersheds are tributary to the Genesee River or the Rochester Embayment of Lake Ontario
Air Pollution Control
Improvements in sludge handling at the Frank E Van Lare waste water Treatment Plant have resulted in a reduction in the employment of incineration as a disposal method for sludge generated at the facility. Dewatered sludge is now trucked to the Mill Seat Landfill in Riga for underground disposal.
Fish and Wildlife Assessments Actions
The Rochester Embayment Area of Concern is listed for a number of Beneficial Use Impairments related to degraded fish and wildlife populations and habitats, including Fish and Wildlife Consumption Advisories; Degradation of Fish and Wildlife Populations; Bird and Animal Deformities or Reproductive Problems; and Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat. As part of the 2002 addendum, delisting criteria and suggested monitoring methods for determining if these criteria have been met were suggested. In the time since then, a number of actions have been undertaken by the local academic community to examine portions of these issues.
The 2002 RAP Addendum proposed monitoring that would examine the issue of fish and wildlife consumption advisories with the goal of differentiating between impacts that are lakewide and impacts arising specifically in the Rochester Embayment, the Lower Genesee River or the contributory watersheds. In 2001, a study was undertaken by Drs. James Haynes and Joseph Makerowicz of SUNY at Brockport and Dr. Thomas Young of Clarkson University with the objectives (among many) of determining the extent of the local and lakewide contributions of Bioaccumulative Contaminants of Concern (BCCs), PCB, mirex/photomirex, and dioxins/furans; establishing existing concentrations of BCCs in the AOC, and approaches for monitoring progress toward remediation. The researchers concluded that the finding that "no differences in total PCB and mirex + photomirex concentrations were found in air and sediment samples collected at four locations in the Rochester Embayment area ( two exposed and two not exposed to Lake Ontario or its food web) and one putatively "pristine" location on the Genesee River some 90 mi south of the Rochester Embayment AOC" suggests that "air and sediment in the Rochester Embayment AOC… are no more contaminated with BCCs than inland areas", which they suggest supports "delisting of the fish and wildlife consumption use impairment." They also found that, in most cases, "BCC concentrations were higher in biota exposed to Lake Ontario or its food web," and that "in no case was the BCC concentration higher in animals not exposed to Lake Ontario or its food web." Once again, they conclude that these data support delisting the embayment for the fish and wildlife consumption beneficial use impairment. They concluded that the "snapping turtle (either eggs or adipose) is likely the better sentinel species for future biomonitoring of worst case conditions", but that " largemouth bass muscle is much more likely to be consumed by humans and wildlife."
The absence or presence of mink and/or their reproductive success was seen as an indicator for delisting of the Degradation of Fish and Wildlife Populations use impairment, Bird and Animal Deformities or Reproductive Problems use impairment, and for the Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat use impairment. A study was undertaken by a graduate student at SUNY at Brockport using an automatically triggered video camera system to look for indications of mink presence and reproductive success at locations close to the lake in and outside of the AOC, and inland both in the AOC watershed and in a separate inland watershed. A second aspect of the study examined tissues collected from animal harvested by fur trappers in locations both in and out of the AOC to look at body burden of BCCs. While the results of this study are still in peer review for publication, mink were found to be both inhabiting and reproducing close to Lake Ontario within the Area of Concern, which suggests that for these impairments, the AOC may be close to delisting.
The Stage I RAP cited decline of native fish species such as Atlantic salmon, lake trout, cisco, blue pike, sturgeon and walleye as evidence of the loss of fish and wildlife habitat use impairment. Fish species on this list were either extinct (blue pike), possibly stressed by confounding factors (thiamine deficiency and lampreys for lake trout and Atlantic salmon), or not necessarily documented as historically abundant in the embayment and the lower river.
In developing delisting criteria for the lower Genesee River, the habitat subcommittee settled on sturgeon as an appropriate indicator for recovery in response to indications from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service that initial assessments of the lower river indicated that habitat was suitable for re-establishment of the species, and there were good historical accounts of the abundance of these fish in the Genesee and the Embayment. In 2003 900 juvenile lake sturgeon raised at the Oneida Lake fish hatchery by NYSDEC were released in the Genesee River, followed in 2004 by release of 1000 juvenile fish. Recapture studies conducted in 2004 and 2005 indicate that juvenile fish are remaining in the river in good numbers where the gravelly substrate they prefer as habitat is present , that growth rates are similar to those measured in other waters, and that benthic invertebrates necessary to a sturgeon diet are present in the river. Reports were also received in the fall of 2005 of anglers on the piers at the mouth of the river and in the vicinity of the lower falls catching small sturgeon while targeting other species. Informational materials on the USFWS/USGS/NYSDEC project and on the endangered nature of lake sturgeon were distributed to bait and tackle stores serving the lower Genesee River.
One of the criteria included in the 2002 Stage II Addendum for delisting the Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat use impairment was "Amphibian diversity and abundance in the study area (including the Genesee River up to the lower falls if monitoring can be done safely) are comparable to expected standards for the type of habitat." It was recommended that Marsh Monitoring Program methods and data be employed to compare the number of species in study area wetlands with the number expected to be found in a healthy wetland. The Marsh Monitoring Program is a cooperative project of Bird Studies Canada (BSC), the Great Lakes Commission, Environment Canada-Ontario Region, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that focuses on birds and calling amphibians (frogs and toads) indigenous to marsh wetlands as indicators of the health of these ecosystems and recovery of areas of concerns. Prior to 2005, a small group of individual volunteers had established routes in the areas of western NY, including areas of the embayment in the Braddock’s Bay Fish and Wildlife Management Area and the Irondequoit Bay wetlands, as well as at inland marsh sites in Monroe County. In the winter of 2005, coordinators for the Marsh Monitoring Program contacted the Rochester Embayment RAP Coordinator, and a more aggressive effort was undertaken to enlist additional volunteers and establish additional routes in western NY with an emphasis on the Rochester Embayment and the riparian marshes of the lower Genesee River. Potential sites were surveyed using USGS quad maps and aerial photographs, and many were ground surveyed in late February. A training session was conducted by BSC staff in early March of 2005 for 21 existing and new volunteers, and routes were assigned. A follow-up session for individuals who could not get to the original session was held later in March by Monroe County staff and additional individuals were enlisted to the program. Data from the first year’s monitoring is available via BSC’s 2005 Interim Summary Report (PDF) (89pp, 1.3MB). The program continued in 2006 with additional monitoring route assignments.
Current projects and outlook
The Rochester Embayment Remedial Action Plan Oversight Committee has summarized data on BUI remediation and identified monitoring that still needs to be undertaken to determine if delisting can occur. The committee also has plans to undertake monitoring remaining to be accomplished in the lower Genesee River and the Rochester Embayment. As part of a recently completed public meeting to solicit input on both new remedial measures and possible changes in priorities from what were included in the Stage II RAP and the 1999 and 2002 addenda, the RAP Committee has updated its matrix of what data has been gathered and what remains to be obtained. Plans for the next year are to review currently existing information and reach consensus on delisting for those use impairments where criteria have been met. The RAP Oversight Committee will also be looking for opportunities to complete data gaps, especially in terms of the two BUIs indicated in the Stage I RAP as unknown – tainting of fish flavor and incidence of fish and wildlife tumors or deformities.
Grants have been received for hyperspectral imaging of algae beds along the Lake Ontario shoreline, a study of the benthic health of the Rochester Embayment, and further development of monitoring methods for toxic-related use impairments.
Publications include manuals for hospital mercury pollution prevention, auto recyclers, volunteer stream monitoring, and volunteer wetland monitoring; semi-annual newsletters; two watershed plans; a watershed developer’s packet; and a report on a water quality opinion survey.
For more information on these publications, contact the people listed in the Contacts section.
One recommended remedial action of the Stage II RAP was formation of a not for profit group to plan, coordinate, fund and implement educational activities within the Rochester Embayment Area of Concern. The Water Education Collaborative (WEC) formed in 2001 in response to this action and is housed at the Rochester Museum and Science Center. It continues to educate citizens regarding their impact on water quality. Educational programs that WEC is involved with include:
- Community Water Watch - a citizen stream monitoring program that has involved over 600 youth and adult volunteers.
- Great Lawns/Great Lakes - a program to help residents reduce their use of chemicals on home lawns to protect water quality.
- Teacher Training Programs - through the University of Rochester's "What's in Our Water" workshops.
- Interactive Eco-hut displays at Mendon Ponds Park
- Annual Coastal Clean Up event along the Genesee River, Lake Ontario, and many streams - over 500 volunteers picked up over two tons of trash in 2005 on a particularly poor weather day.
- Annual "Our Fragile World" Event at the Seneca Park Zoo
- In-school presentations and curricula development
- Storm Drain Stenciling
- Stream Bank Erosion Control
- Assistance to municipalities in complying with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Phase II Stormwater Regulations.
The WEC is currently re-administering a survey of county resident’s attitudes towards water quality problems to be used in designing a media campaign in partnership with the Ad-Council.
Community Water Watch (CWW) is a volunteer stream monitoring program. The program was developed by a task group of the Monroe County Water Quality Management Advisory Committee (WQMAC). The purpose of the program is to utilize citizen volunteers to track the health of local streams, identify problems that may need correction, and foster stewardship of our local water resources. Participation in the program consists of the following core activities:
- Adoption of a one-half mile segment of stream
- An annual watershed walk to look for problems such as litter, or visual discharges to the stream.
- A visual survey and collection of benthic macroinvertebrate twice per year at locations along your adopted stream
- Performance of educational activities
- Submit data used to characterize watershed health
Also, several optional activities such as tree planting, litter pick-ups, and storm drain stenciling have been preformed by CWW teams. Teams are asked to commit to the program for at least two years to facilitate data collection continuity.
Oatka Creek Watershed Committee
Early activities of the Oatka Creek Watershed Committee included development of a State of the Basin report, completion of a metals study throughout the watershed, and initiation of a municipal outreach program. Activities since 2002 include a stressed segment analysis of the Genesee and Wyoming County portions of the watershed funded through the Finger Lakes Lake Ontario Watershed Protection Alliance, completion of an initial municipal outreach by the committee, an assessment of local ordinances and practices pertaining to erosion and sedimentation completed by the Genesee Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council with funding from the Great Lakes Commission Great Lakes Basin Program for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control, and incorporation as a 501(c)3 Not-for Profit Agency. The Committee continues to meet monthly and is partnering with the Black Creek Watershed Coalition and the Genesee Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council to seek funding for completion of watershed plans and implementation of protective ordinances and activities with watershed municipalities.
The Black Creek Watershed Coalition
The Black Creek watershed municipalities organized as the Black Creek Watershed Coalition to work cooperatively on water quality and quantity issues in the Black Creek Watershed, one of the major tributaries to the lower Genesee River and a stream listed on the NYSDEC 303(d) list. The Coalition members include municipal officials, staff and board members, representatives from county, state and federal government agencies, institutions of higher education, agricultural interests, environmental groups and businesses as well as concerned and interested citizens. The Coalition published the Black Creek Watershed State of the Basin Report with funding from the River Network. It was prepared by Drs. James Zollweg, Whitney Autin and Mark Noll, professors from SUNY at Brockport, in conjunction with the members of the coalition. Water quality risks include nonpoint sources from developed areas (stormwater runoff), point sources discharges and agricultural sources of pollution. Water quantity risks are associated with flooding and low flow conditions; it is recognized that water quantity issues may have relevance to water quality issues.
Irondequoit Creek Watershed Collaborative
The formation of the Irondequoit Creek Watershed Collaborative began in 1994. Town and village elected officials and staff from communities within the Irondequoit Creek watershed met to discuss common water quality concerns. Several State, County and local initiatives likely to affect infrastructure planning, public works operations, and development review underscored the need for local governments to examine their policies, procedures, and laws relating to water quality. One outcome was the creation of a packet for developers which developed standard stormwater management requirements and reporting for new and retrofit land developments within the watershed. A second major output of the IWC was a cooperative project undertaken with the United States Geological Survey to model impacts of land use change on both watershed hydrology and water quality. The final product of this effort, an HSPF model involving 82 subbasins, was received in summer 2005. This model allows local officials to evaluate the impacts of changes in land use brought by developments on downstream hydrology and water quality, allowing better planning of best management practice implementation.