Letter from Chip Northrup
HABs: Mitigation, Not Messaging
The local NGOs have taken the lead in addressing the harmful algal blooms in Lake Otsego with a “messaging” workshop. Good. Since the messaging thus far has been a bit mixed if not confusing. Some groups are focused on monitoring the situation—also helpful if done within the context of a mitigation plan. What’s missing thus far is a DEC approved mitigation plan to reduce the inflow of nutrients into the lake. We know what drives HABs—inflow of nitrogen and phosphorus into the lake. We also know where those nutrients come from: septic systems, fertilizer and farms. Until the inflow of those nutrients is curtailed, the HABs will get worse.
Fortunately, we know how to reduce the inflow of fertilizer into the lake. Septic systems have to be modified to reduce their output of nitrogen and phosphorus. Septic tanks that are currently compliant with state law do not remove nitrogen and phosphorus, so this may require a new, higher standard for septic tanks in the watershed. Fertilizer runoff from farms and golf courses will have to be reduced. Together, we can mitigate the problem, which will enable us to spend less time and effort on messaging and monitoring.