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April 23, 2022 - 5:34pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in DeWitt Recreation Area, batavia, Earth Day, environment, news.

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Troop Leader Melissa Sciortino holds a trash bag while Girl Scouts Lana, left, and Kennedy, gather garbage dropped on the ground by people at DeWitt Recreation Area in Batavia.

Also helping from Troop 60870 in Spencerport was Isabella.

The girls were earning badges for environment, hiking and wilderness.

The clean-up was part of the Genesee County Parks Department celebration of Earth Day at DeWitt.

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April 23, 2022 - 5:18pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Earth Day, environment, Oakfield, news.

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Robert and Sara Mackenzie were among the volunteers today helping to clean up Oakfield for the community's 13th annual Earth Day observance. The Mackenzies were picking up trash on Drake Street Road.

April 23, 2022 - 4:34pm

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Heidi Young, with the Genesee County Soil and Water Conservation District, loads a pair of trees into the truck of Joe Reif, of Clarence, as part of the department's tree and shrub program for 2022.

Area residents were able to pre-order a variety of trees and shrubs for spring planting from Soil and Water and pick them up today at the Agri-Culture Center on East Main Street Road, Batavia.

This year there were 41 tree and shrub options for sale and 15 different multi-stem packages. Items ranged from evergreens, hardwoods, fruit trees, and flowering shrubs, to perennial flowers and ferns. Items that were not offered in a while have reappeared in the catalog this year, including white cedar transplants, yellow birch, pin cherry, and white flowering dogwood.

Photos by Howard Owens

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April 6, 2022 - 2:16pm
posted by Press Release in Genesee County Resiliency Plan, environment, planning, news.

Press release:

On behalf of New York Green, CC Environment & Planning and LaBella Associates are holding a Public Input Meeting on Tuesday, April 19, to discuss the Draft Genesee County Resiliency Plan. The Draft Resiliency Plan provides an overview of current and future climate trends and impacts in Genesee County; identification of County assets, risks, vulnerabilities, and opportunities; development and prioritization of local resilience strategies; and projects designed for immediate implementation. The Draft Resiliency Plan is available for public review and comment at: COUNTYWIDE RESILIENCY PLAN (ny-green.org).

The Resiliency Plan is being developed in partnership between New York Green and Genesee County, with funding from the NYS Department of State.

The Public Open House will be held on Tuesday, April 19, 2022, at the Innovation Room in the Genesee County Economic Development Center Office, located at 99 MedTech Drive in Batavia. There will be two sessions to facilitate participation. The first session will be held from 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm. The second will be held from 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm. A presentation outlining the Draft Resiliency Plan will be provided, followed by an open discussion.

For more information, contact Sheila Hess at CC Environment & Planning, at (518) 219-4030 or visit COUNTYWIDE RESILIENCY PLAN (ny-green.org).

September 2, 2020 - 4:19pm

Press release:

A new Genesee River Blueway Map is ready for use by canoeists and kayakers who wish to explore and connect with the Genesee River.

The downloadable Overview Map (pdf) shows current river access locations from Pennsylvania to Lake Ontario.

A web-based Interactive Map gives users detailed information about each access point, including photos of the sites. Printed copies of the Overview Map will be available at access points over the next few months as signage and map holders are installed.

Genesee RiverWatch partnered with Genesee River Wilds in Allegany County and the Genesee Valley Conservancy in Geneseo to develop the Blueway Map.

The new map updates a 2004 version produced by the Sierra Club Rochester Regional Group.

Today’s map adds new sites and removes those which have fallen into disrepair and are unsafe to use. The addition of an expanded online map will allow information to be updated frequently and to include data on river conditions and nearby services that would not fit on a printed document.

The work was funded by a $25,000 grant from New York Sea Grant and financial and in-kind support from the Greater Allegany County Chamber of Commerce.

As part of this project, Genesee RiverWatch has developed a prioritized list of sites for new and improved access based on input from stakeholders and citizens, aerial imaging, GIS, the work of others, and site visits.

This work is summarized in the Genesee River Canoe/Kayak Access Improvement Plan 2019 and will be used as guidance for future funding applications.

Additional Information

Genesee River Facts

The Genesee River flows 157 miles from its sources near Gold, Pennsylvania to Lake Ontario at Rochester, New York. The Genesee Basin drains approximately 2,500 square miles in Monroe, Livingston, Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming, Ontario, Steuben, Allegany and Cattaraugus counties in New York and Potter County in Pennsylvania. Twenty-four sub-watersheds of the Genesee contain 5,048 miles of streams.

Current land use within the watershed is approximately 52-percent agricultural, 40-percent forest, 4-percent urban, 2-percent wetlands, and 2-percent other developed lands.

The Genesee River has been shaped by its glacial history. The last glacier receded around 12,000 years ago, leaving the spectacular Letchworth gorge and magnificent waterfalls, but also unconsolidated soils that erode easily and produce approximately 420,000 tons of river sediment each year.

Genesee RiverWatch

Genesee RiverWatch Inc. improves the water quality of the Genesee River and its tributaries to create environmental, recreational, and economic assets for its communities. We also connect people to the river, encouraging them to explore, experience and celebrate the river.

Contact George Thomas at (585) 233-6086 or [email protected]

Genesee River Wilds

Genesee River Wilds is an organization of like-minded people whose goal is to develop the use of the upper Genesee River for outdoor recreation and enjoyment of the natural environment. We focus on improving existing facilities, constructing new infrastructure, expanding trails, adding parks and on balancing development with ecological conservation.

Contact Thomas Rhett at: [email protected]

Genesee Valley Conservancy

The Genesee Valley Conservancy is a not-for-profit land trust that strives to conserve important natural resources and strengthen connections between people and the land in the Genesee River watershed.

Since 1990, GVC has worked to permanently protect important wildlife habitat, working farms and forest land, and expansive natural areas within Livingston, Wyoming, Allegany, Ontario, Steuben, and Monroe counties.

In addition to directly conserving land, Genesee Valley Conservancy facilitates sound land-use planning amongst municipalities for the benefit of the community. Genesee Valley Conservancy also owns three nature preserves, open to the public year-round for outdoor recreation such as hiking and canoeing and hosts educational lectures and walks on protected property.

September 16, 2019 - 3:20pm

Tops Friendly Markets, a leading full-service grocery retailer in New York, Northern Pennsylvania, and Vermont, is proud to announce its registration for the 2019 Clean Up the World (CUTW) program.

Established in 1993, CUTW is one of the largest community-based environmental programs in the world, uniting community groups, schools, businesses, and local governments to carry out activities that address local environmental issues. The organization inspired billions of people across all continents to tread lightly, clean up, and conserve the planet in addition to combating waste and plastic pollution.

In order to fulfill its commitment to the program Tops is hosting a Clean Up the World Weekend, Sept. 20-22, at all 159 of its stores across three states, including its two stores in Genesee County -- Batavia and Le Roy.

Over the course of the three days, 10,000 reusable bags made of 10-percent recyclable materials will randomly be given away, encouraging shoppers to use recycled bags over plastic. This is especially pertinent in New York State where a plastic bag ban is currently in legislation and set to go into effect in March.

Additionally shoppers will learn more about specific earth friendly brands available at Tops including Full Circle, Mrs. Meyers, Method, Seventh Generation and more as they make their own personal choices to make a difference in their own carbon footprint.

Lastly, Tops associates will be participating in environmental clean ups across the communities in which it serves. From river and beach clean ups to beautifying trails and parks, Tops is encouraging its associates to make a difference.

“At Tops Friendly Markets, social responsibility and sustainability have always been at the core of our mission, upholding standards that ensure we reduce environmental waste and energy consumption while providing our customers with sustainably sourced, high-quality products,” said Kathy Sautter, public and media relations manager for Tops Friendly Markets.

“We continue to make great strides in reducing our environmental impact in every facet of our business. For example we are able to reduce the amount of inedible food going back into landfills by recycling over 346 tons of inedible food and over 156 tons of unusable organic products this year alone.”

Across the chain, Tops raises its efficiencies in other ways as well by implementing energy efficient lighting which drastically reduces energy consumption throughout their stores properties. The chain began upgrading interior lighting to LED lights/fixtures thru a program with Lime Energy Services in several of its stores as well as its corporate offices and mailroom. In 2019 these retro-fittings now save over 1,909,725 kWh annually.

As Tops launched into a year of remodels in 2019 LED lighting continues to be used to ensure additional savings. LED lighting was also used in fuel canopies in 2019 helping to save over 181,000 kWh annually in exterior lighting as well.

Tops also took a look at how it could reduce the amount of refrigerant containing ozone depleting gases and retrofitted multiple systems companywide resulting in 20,000 pounds less for an overall 10-percent reduction. Overall the company was able to reduce its leak rates on these harmful refrigerants by 20 percent keeping 5,600 pounds out of the atmosphere.

Tops is also on track to exceed last year’s totals when it comes to recycling. So far this year alone the company has recycled more than 9,500 tons of cardboard and over 395 tons of plastic bags and film.

September 6, 2019 - 1:42pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Lehigh Valley Derailment Site, tce, environment, Le Roy, news, notify.

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Federal and state environmental agencies are continuing to monitor and work on cleanup of contaminants at the Lehigh Train Derailment Superfund Site off of Gulf Road, according to information obtained by The Batavian.

The elimination of TCE contaminants from groundwater in the four-mile-long plume area, which stretches from Gulf Road to four miles east and southeast of the derailment site, is not likely to occur in most of our lifetimes.

The derailment site cleanup was largely forgotten until 2011 when it became the focus of speculation during the Le Roy tic issue when about a dozen high school girls developed spontaneous tic-like movements.

Bob Bowcock, an environmental scientist brought to Le Roy by environmental activist and lawyer Erin Brockovich, determined then that there was no TCE reaching the school property, and it was unlikely the spill site and the tics were linked (the girls were diagnosed with conversion disorder and no scientific evidence ever emerged to contradict that diagnosis).

Information about the spill site made public by the Environmental Protection Agency since then confirm Bowcock's analysis.

In 2017, the Lehigh Valley Railroad corporation, under the direction of the EPA and the DEC, completed a vapor-extraction program at the spill site.

Michael Basile, regional spokesman for the EPA, said the vapor removal effort, which lasted for two years, did remove some TCE, but vapor extraction cannot remove all of it.

"It has been determined that there is TCE embedded in the rock/gravel at the site that cannot be removed via the SVE system," Basile wrote in an email. "Consultants for the responsible party have recently completed a study that has looked at several remedial measures that may be feasible to address the contamination at the site. It is under review by EPA and New York State. EPA will determine the appropriate next steps."

TCE, or trichloroethylene, according to the EPA website, is "a volatile organic compound." It is a clear, colorless liquid that has a sweet odor and evaporates quickly. TCE is a toxic chemical with human health concerns."

After the Lehigh Valley derailment in 1970, a plume of TCE quickly spread to the east and southeast for about four miles, in a human-foot-shaped pattern and groundwater forces around it have kept it contained to that area. It has become embedded in the bedrock of the plume area making it impossible to completely remove.

Eventually, it will all evaporate as hydraulic action brings more and more of it to the surface, but that process will take five decades or more.

"Considering the railroad derailment occurred in December 1970 -- where it was estimated that 30,000 to 35,000 gallons of TCE were spilled onto the ground contaminating the soil and groundwater -- even with the most sophisticated hydrogeological equipment it is very difficult to estimate how much contamination still exists in the area," Basile said.

The EPA says current vapor levels in the plume area are generally below the levels of human health concerns.

Basile said 13 residences in the plume area have been affected by the spill and have vapor-mitigation systems installed in their homes and the EPA continues to monitor these properties.

The public water supply has been protected from the plume, according to the EPA.

"With the extension of the public water supply to the affected homes and businesses, the installation of the soil-vapor mitigation systems on the affected homes, plus continual monitoring of the groundwater, public health and safety concerns continue to be achieved," Basile said.

Top photo: Vapor removal pipes still in place at the derailment site. The vapor removal effort has ended but the pipes remain in place while the EPA and DEC evaluate what steps to take next.

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FIle photo: What the site looked like in 2012. The barrels were removed within weeks after this photo was taken, which was during Bob Bowcock's inspection of the site.

Below is a video produced by the EPA in 2017 about the spill cleanup. It goes into a great amount of detail about the hydraulics of the spill, its history, and how it's being monitored and remediated.

April 29, 2019 - 5:12pm
posted by Billie Owens in Genesee River Basin, news, Oatka Creek, environment.

Press release:

ROCHESTER -- April 29 -- Genesee RiverWatch has released the first-ever “Report Card” grading the water quality and usability of the Genesee River and its major tributaries. The Report Card was developed to raise awareness of the environmental challenges facing the Genesee River Basin so that actions can be taken to improve the state of the watershed and preserve its beauty for generations to come.

“We have been developing this Report Card for a long time and are pleased to release it today," said George Thomas, executive director of Genesee RiverWatch. "We hope the public will take the time to read the full report."

To do so, click here.

"We are happy to answer questions about its grades and their implications," Thomas said. "We are even happier to answer questions about how individuals and organizations can help us continue to improve the river’s water quality and its recreational opportunities."

The overall grade for the Genesee River Basin is a “C” based on the quality of the river’s water at Rochester. This, in turn, reflects the cumulative effects on water quality of all the activities that take place along the Main Stem of the River and all its sub-watersheds stretching to Northern Pennsylvania.

Canaseraga Creek received the lowest grade – “D” – of all the sub-watersheds, indicating poor water quality and limits to human usage.

Oatka Creek and Black Creek received grades of “B” -- the highest grades of all the Genesee River sub-watersheds, indicating good water quality and better opportunities for human usage.

The Upper Basin of the river (south of Letchworth Park), Honeoye Creek and Conesus Creek sub-watersheds received grades of “C.”

In summary, there are portions of the Genesee River Basin that are environmentally in good health. However, major portions of the watershed are degraded to varying degrees.

Data used in this first Report Card is taken from reports published by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and focus on Total Phosphorus and Total Suspended Solids as well as the Department of Environmental Conservation’s assessments of suitability for human use.

Future report cards will also include the growing database of water quality measurements being collected by Genesee RiverWatch’s volunteer water quality monitors.

“The Genesee River is a major asset and resource for our region," said Board President Mike Haugh. "Rochester would not be the metropolitan area it is today if it wasn’t for the river. Its environmental, recreational and economic impact is critical to the future success of our region.

Genesee RiverWatch is dedicated to improving, preserving and celebrating the Genesee River and its tributaries and we hope you will join us in this effort.”

Genesee River Facts

The Genesee River flows 157 miles from its sources near Gold, Pennsylvania to Lake Ontario at Rochester, New York. The Genesee Basin drains approximately 2,500 square miles in Monroe, Livingston, Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming, Ontario, Steuben, Allegany and Cattaraugus counties in New York and Potter County in Pennsylvania. Twenty-four sub-watersheds of the Genesee contain 5,048 miles of streams.

Current land use within the watershed is approximately 52 percent agricultural, 40 percent forest, 4 percent urban, 2 percent wetlands and 2 percent other developed lands.

The Genesee River has been shaped by its glacial history. The last glacier receded around 12,000 years ago, leaving the spectacular Letchworth gorge and magnificent waterfalls, but also unconsolidated soils that erode easily and produce approximately 420,000 tons of river sediment each year.

Genesee RiverWatch

Genesee RiverWatch improves the water quality of the Genesee River and its tributaries to create environmental, recreational and economic assets for its communities. We also connect people to the river, encouraging them to explore, experience and celebrate the river.

Upcoming: Sixth Annual Genesee River Basin Summit

Genesee RiverWatch will host its Sixth Annual Genesee River Basin Summit on Tuesday, May 7, at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Louise Slaughter Hall. The program will begin at 8 a.m. and end at 4:30 p.m.

Admission is free and includes a continental breakfast and afternoon break. A noon break will allow attendees to discuss the program over lunch at several food service facilities on the RIT campus. Registration is requested; click here.

July 13, 2018 - 2:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Iron and Metal Co., news, notify, environment, DEC.

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The Department of Environmental Conservation has completed clean up of environmental contamination on city property next door to the former Batavia Iron and Metal Co. property at 301 Bank St.

The former metal recycling plant is a state Superfund site and has been a target of environmental remediation for toxic waste since 2013.

The property in question is land along the northern end of the Dwyer Stadium parking lot.

Clean up of the entire site is almost complete.

From August 2017 to June 2018, crews removed soil along the property line and at the rear of the property.

"The primary goal of the cleanup effort was to ensure effective removal and property disposal of contaminated soil and debris on City property and to restore the property with clean soil," the DEC stated in a report on the project.

The contractor was Nature's Way Environmental, from Alden.

During remediation, 17,000 tons of soil and debris was removed. 

The city property received clean soil and grass seed.

The DEC estimates the remaining surface clean up of the Iron and Metal property will be completed by late 2018.

The site was operated as a metal recycling facility from 1951 to 1999. Two furnaces operated on the property from the early 1970s until 1994. The furnaces reclaimed wire and smelted white metals. Before the furnaces were installed, the company used open-burn dumpsters to remove insulation from wiring.

From these activities, contaminants leached onto city property and three neighboring residential properties.

Cleanup of the residential properties was completed in 2014.

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March 1, 2018 - 4:27pm
Press release:
 
Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer today called for local student entries for the New York State Senate’s Earth Day Poster Contest, a statewide competition that raises awareness of environmental issues.
 
“Earth Day celebrates the great strides made in protecting our environment," Ranzenhofer said. "This poster contest is an opportunity for local school districts to share that commitment with our students. By educating our young minds about protecting our planet, they can be a part of the many New Yorkers who are already helping to improve the quality of air we breathe and the water we drink."
 
The Earth Day poster competition is for children in grades K–6. The theme of the contest is “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.” Students are encouraged to be creative and convey a real commitment to making the environment a better place.
 
The focus is to emphasize the importance and encourage the exchange of ideas about recycling and waste reduction, as well as stimulate creative thinking about solutions concerning these issues.
 
School districts and students wishing to participate in this year’s event must submit their entries by April 13 via Senator Ranzenhofer’s website, ranzenhofer.nysenate.gov. Entries should be photographed and submitted electronically, preferably in a jpeg format. 
 
Winning posters will be displayed at Senator Ranzenhofer’s website. All participants will receive a certificate acknowledging their participation.
 
Since the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, more than 20 million Americans have participated, helping to improve the quality of our air and water. In addition, Senator Ranzenhofer voted for a landmark $2.5 billion investment in statewide clean water projects last year, including:
 
Creation of the new Drinking Water Quality Council to bring together experts to review existing evidence, study contaminants of concern and make recommendations to the Department of Health regarding drinking water safety, including state specific thresholds and public notice procedures;
Establishment of the Emerging Contaminant Monitoring Act to require all public water systems to test for unregulated contaminants that are known, or anticipated to be present in drinking water; and
$275 million in continued funding for Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds and $20 million from the Environmental Protection Fund to be used for clean water projects.
May 12, 2017 - 5:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Emerald Ash Borer, DEC, environment, news.

Press release:

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Department of Agriculture and Markets (DAM) today announced that eight existing Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) Restricted Zones have been expanded and merged into a single Restricted Zone in order to strengthen the State’s efforts to slow the spread of this invasive pest. 

The new EAB Restricted Zone includes part or all of Albany, Allegany, Broome, Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Chenango, Chemung, Columbia, Cortland, Delaware, Dutchess, Erie, Genesee, Greene, Livingston, Madison, Monroe, Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, Orange, Orleans, Oswego, Otsego, Putnam, Rensselaer, Rockland, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Sullivan, Tioga, Tompkins, Ulster, Wayne, Westchester, Wyoming, and Yates counties.

The EAB Restricted Zone prohibits the movement of EAB and potentially infested ash wood. The map is available on the DEC website http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7253.html.

“The expanded Restricted Zone for the destructive pest Emerald Ash Borer will help to slow the spread of this tree-killing beetle, protecting millions of ash trees in New York,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “DEC will continue our efforts to slow the spread of this beetle and do what we can to help communities prepare for EAB.”

“It’s critical that we continue to track the Emerald Ash Borer and adjust our efforts to combat and slow the spread of this invasive beetle that damages and kills ash trees in both our forested and urban settings,” said State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball. “By expanding the Restricted Zone, we can ensure that EAB and potentially infested ash wood does not leave the quarantine areas.”

Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis) or “EAB” is a serious invasive tree pest in the United States, killing hundreds of millions of ash trees in forests, yards, and neighborhoods. The beetles’ larvae feed in the cambium layer just below the bark, preventing the transport of water and nutrients into the crown and killing the tree. Emerging adult beetles leave distinctive D-shaped exit holes in the outer bark of the branches and the trunk. Adults are roughly 3/8 to 5/8 inch long with metallic green wing covers and a coppery red or purple abdomen. They may be present from late May through early September but are most common in June and July. Other signs of infestation include tree canopy dieback, yellowing, and browning of leaves. 

EAB was first discovered in the United States in 2002 in southeastern Michigan. It was also found in Windsor, Ontario, Canada the same year. This Asian beetle infests and kills North American ash species (Fraxinus sp.) including green, white, black and blue ash. Thus, all native ash trees are susceptible.

EAB larvae can be moved long distances in firewood, logs, branches, and nursery stock, later emerging to infest new areas. These regulated articles may not leave the Restricted Zone without a compliance agreement or limited permit from the Department of Agriculture and Markets, applicable only during the non-flight season (September 1 - April 30).

Regulated articles from outside of the Restricted Zone may travel through the Restricted Zone as long as the origin and the destination are listed on the waybill and the articles are moved without stopping, except for traffic conditions and refueling. Wood chips may not leave the Restricted Zone between April 15th and May 15th of each year when EAB is likely to emerge.

For more information about EAB or the emergency orders, please visit DEC’s website. If you see signs of EAB attack on ash trees outside of the Restrictive Zone, please report these occurrences to the DEC’s Forest Health Information Line toll-free at 1-866-640-0652.

May 1, 2017 - 12:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCEDC, environment, schools, education, business, news.

Press release:

International recording artist, environmentalist, and educator, Mr. Eco, will be visiting John Kennedy Primary School on Tuesday, May 9th at 9:30 a.m. for a special performance. Mr. Eco combines hip hop music with lyrics that inspire children to be environmentally conscientious.

The event is being sponsored by the Building Technologies Division at Siemens and hosted in conjunction with the fourth-grade innovators STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) programing at John Kennedy School and the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC).

Mr. Eco’s songs emphasize the active role we all have in creating a sustainable culture, decreasing energy usage, increasing recycling, and working to keep communities free of litter. He has performed for more than 135,000 children across the United States, Canada, Turkey, South Africa, Colombia, St. Lucia, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

“Conveying how important it is to take care of our environment to children at a young age is critically important,” said Christopher Dailey, superintendent of Batavia City School District.

“We want to ensure that our students develop environmentally friendly habits early on and we are really looking forward to having Mr. Eco teach them this in such a fun way. We are also very proud of our fourth-grade innovators program and the STEAM course work they have completed this year, so this will be a natural extension of what these students have been learning.”

Siemens’ sponsorship of the concert is in keeping with its support of student achievement, STEAM and sustainability.

“We are excited to honor the students at John Kennedy and the leadership at Batavia City School District for their outstanding accomplishments this year,” said Joseph Peters, Northeast zone manager, Siemens’ Building Technologies Division.     

“An important component of economic development is mitigating the impact of construction projects and other infrastructure work on the surrounding environment,” said Chris Suozzi, vice president of Business Development at GCEDC.

“We need to prepare the future workforce of our county and region to understand this delicate balance so that we can continue growing the economy while protecting the environment.”

For more information about Mr. Eco please visit www.mreco.org.

April 27, 2017 - 1:03pm

Most of this information is from Katherine Bunting-Howarth, New York Sea Grant associate director, Cornell University, the rest is from GLOW Solid Waste:

Twice a year New York residents can take their unused pharmaceuticals back to collection sites statewide --  "no questions asked." It's part of the National Presecription Drug Take Back Day. The first such event for 2017 is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday, April 29.

In Genesee County, the drop-off sites set up outside (for drive-by drop-offs) for this occasion are at:

  • the Batavia Police Department parking lot, 10 W. Main St. in the City of Batavia;
  • the Pembroke Town Highway barns at the junction of routes 5 and 77, East Pembroke, the drop-off site will be manned by the Sheriff's Office
  • Le Roy PD

In addition, drop boxes are located at the NY State Police -- Batavia Barracks, 4525 W. Saile Drive, Batavia; the GC Sheriff's Office at 165 Park Road, Batavia; and the Village of Le Roy Police Department, 3 W. Main St. (The Le Roy location also accepts sharps, according to GLOW Region Solid Waste.)

Why people should properly dispose of unwanted medications -- both presription and over-the-counter -- is highlighted in the "Undo the Environmental Chemical Brew: Keep Unwanted Medications and Chemicals Out of the Great Lakes" guide developed by New York Sea Grant.

The guide is posted online at www.nyseagrant.org/unwantedmeds.

The guide written by New York Sea Grant Coastal Education Specialist Helen Domske, associate director of the Great Lakes Program at the University of Buffalo, Buffalo, includes tips on how citizens can keep unwanted pharmaceuticals and personal care products, also called PPCPs, out of local waters and out of the Great Lakes system.

"Taking unused prescription drugs to collection sites helps reduce the impact of unwanted substances on the water resource that provides drinking water to 42 million people in the United States and Canada and aquatic habitat for a host of fishes and other wildlife," Domske said.

The Undo the Chemical Brew guide lists 17 different types of PPCPs, including antibiotics, hormones, contraceptives, antidepressants, cosmetics, and vitamins, that are finding their way into the Great Lakes, the source of drinking water for 42 million people in the United States and Canada.

Research by New York Sea Grant and other science organizations has tracked the feminization of fish populations downstream from wastewater treatment plants to estrogen and its components found in prescription drugs.

"Researchers are increasingly documenting the impact of bioactive chemical substances in PPCPs throughout the aquatic food web on fishes, frogs, mussels and other freshwater organisms. We do not want people flushing unwanted and unused medicines down the toilet or drain," Domske said.

A New York Sea Grant-funded, two-year research project that began in February 2016 is examining the effectiveness of advanced water treatment options, environmental levels and potential effects of pharmaceuticals in New York waters.

The biannual National Prescription Drug Take Back Days are an initiative of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in cooperation with law enforcement agencies nationwide. Authorized collection sites are posted on the website at https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/

New York Sea Grant, a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York, is one of 33 university-based programs under the National Sea Grant Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. New York Sea Grant has Great Lakes offices in Buffalo, Newark and Oswego.

April 22, 2017 - 7:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Earth Day, DeWitt Recreation Area, environment, news.

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Volunteers of all ages came out to DeWitt Recreation Area in Batavia today -- Earth Day -- to help clean the park and participate in various learning activities.

One of the activities was an "emerald ash borer game," where several children were emerald ash borers, two were volunteers and one was a park ranger. The emerald ash borers had 10 seconds to lay their eggs in as many ash trees in a wooded area (represented by small, green disks). Then volunteers would identify infected trees and the park ranger would come along and replace the ash trees with another kind of tree. The game illustrated how much faster an infestation can spread than forest rangers can act to do anything about it.

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April 5, 2017 - 9:54am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Oatka Creek Watershed Committee, Le Roy, news, environment.

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Press release:

The Oatka Creek Watershed Committee Inc. (OCWC) is indebted to the Victor L. Blood and Maudaline L. Blood Charitable Foundation Inc. for its generous support for our Storm Drain Marking Project in the Village of Le Roy. 

Over the years of meeting and working with the community of Le Roy, we have heard so many stories and found memories of the creek. Anyone can see why this place holds a very special place in the hearts of the residents.

The committee is currently working to complete the marking of storm drains in the village that run directly to the creek. Storm-water runoff is a leading cause of water pollution. We will be securing metal medallions that have sayings like “No Dumping” and “Drains to Creek” on them. Last year, more than 100 markers were installed. This year, we are hoping to mark 400!

Come and help OCWC finish installing markers on storm drains around  the Village! It’s fun and easy, and helps remind folks that what goes down the drain, ends up in the Oatka Creek.

We will be meeting April 15 – the Saturday right before Easter –  at 8:30 a.m. in the parking lot behind the Le Roy United Methodist Church (off Trigon Park). We will be working until noon. We have all the supplies, so just bring yourself and wear comfortable shoes.

Rain Date: April 29th -- same time/same place.

If you can lend a hand, give Pete a call at 585.538.2223 or email him at [email protected]

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January 30, 2017 - 1:27pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Lehigh Derailment Site, Le Roy, environment, news.

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It's been five years since a site of a toxic chemical spill in Le Roy -- known as the Lehigh Train Derailment Site -- made the news as part of a media frenzy around reports of students at the high school developing strange, unexplained tics, but cleanup work has been ongoing since, according to a spokesman for the EPA.

In fact, good progress has been made and the end may be in sight for remediation, according to Michael Basile, who represents the Environmental Protection Agency in Buffalo.

There's no firm timeline for completion of the work, but there have been two significant recent developments, he said.

First, last year some 300 pounds of trichloroethene (TCE) contaminated soil was removed from the area, he said. That removal effort is ongoing and will continue until testing shows TCE has been removed from the area. (CORRECTION: This should have read 300 pounds of TCE removed from the soil).

Second, a draft document on remediation options for contaminated groundwater has been completed and the EPA will pick a plan from those options for remediation sometime this year.

The TCE spill was the result of a train crash at the site on Gulf Road in the early morning hours of Dec. 6, 1970. Approximately 2,000 pounds of cyanide crystals and 30,000 to 35,000 gallons of TCE were spilled. The cyanide was removed, but at the time Lehigh apparently didn't have an easy way to remove the TCE. Instead, it tried saturating the area with one million gallons of water. This only drove the TCE deeper into the ground and contaminated about 50 water wells.

The site became a footnote in local history until 2012 when a group of mostly girls at Le Roy High School were reported to have developed odd tics and uncontrolled movements.  As families and members of the community searched for answers, the spill site became a target for investigation.

Famed environmental crusader Erin Brockovich was contacted, and though she never personally came to Le Roy, she sent out a team of scientists led by Robert Bowcock.  

The entire event had reached a fevered pitch in the national media by that point, with news crews from nearly ever major news outlet in the country arriving in Le Roy, as well as crews from as far away as Japan.

A trip to the site on the day Bowcock arrived in town revealed a cleanup area that appeared to be largely neglected. More than 300 rusted barrels of material were being stored there, further feeding concerns about the state of contamination.

However, Bowcock's own tests and his examination the topography of the region, led the Los Angeles-based environmental scientist to conclude that contamination from the site did not and could not reach the location of the high school and there was no known connection for all those suffering from the tics to the railroad property contamination.

The ongoing concern about its status, however, brought about a visit to the site by Congresswoman Kathy Hochul. Sen. Charles Schumer also got involved.

The EPA soon closed the location to media access and brought in crews to remove the barrels, which the EPA said were filled with rock, sand and dirt and did not likely contain contaminated soil. Later testing, the EPA announced at the time, detected a trace amount of TCE in some barrels.  

In the five years since the events, there have been no new reports of strange tics among young people in Le Roy and there have been reports that the dozen or so people originally treated at the Dent Neurological Institute are all improved, confirming the earlier diagnoses of a mass psychogenic illness. 

The EPA continues to monitor the site closely, Basile said. This includes maintaining soil vapor monitors in homes near where the spill occurred. Next month, he said, it will be time for inspectors to visit those monitors and change their filters. That monitoring is expected to continue indefinitely. 

Photo: File photo from 2012.

January 24, 2017 - 4:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in news, Trump Administration, environment.

So far it looks like a sweeping activity freeze placed on the Environmental Protection Agency by the Trump Administration will have little impact locally.

The new directive bars the EPA from issue new grants or entering new contracts.

In some regions this could mean brownfield redevelopment projects could see funding delayed or eliminated, but City Manager Jason Molino said none of the Batavia Opportunity Area projects depend on federal funding, so the change in policy will have no impact on the BOA.

Molly S. Cassatt, managing director of the county's Soil and Water Conservation District, said there are no pending grants impacted by the order, but she isn't sure about the status of a recent grant application. The district joined seven other counties in the region, she said, on a grant application for a sediment and nutrient reduction project in the Genesee River Watershed. The eastern half of Genesee County, which includes Oatka and Black creeks, is part of that watershed.

If that grant is blocked, she said, there is still state money available to help with the project in those creeks.

County Manager Jay Gsell said he isn't away of any immediate impact on county government.

The Trump Administration has also ordered the EPA to cease all public communication, including the issuing of press releases, participation in social media and blogs and website updates.

We emailed the EPA to check the status of funding for cleanup of the superfund project in Le Roy, the Lehigh Train Derailment Site, which was seemingly neglected until 2012 when the Le Roy tic issue came up, and a staff member responded referring us to the Buffalo EPA representative. We called his office and he is out of the office for the day.

The USDA has received the same communications order.

We tried calling the local USDA office, located on Liberty Street, and we were referred to the public relations officer for the region, based in Syracuse. This would probably be standard procedure anyway, but the officer asked us to email our question about local news media communication. He's since responded that he will provide a response as soon as possible.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer issued the brief statement about the EPA's freeze on grants and contracts:

“EPA’s fundamental mission to protect clean air and clean water for public health and safety is being impeded by the unprecedented decision to freeze all grants and contracts. This decision could have damaging implications‎ for communities across New York, from delaying testing for lead in schools to restricting efforts to keep drinking water clean to holding up much-needed funding to revitalize toxic brownfield sites. The Administration should reverse this damaging policy immediately,” Schumer said.

August 4, 2016 - 1:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in weather, drought, water, environment.

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There isn't much water flowing in the Tonawanda Creek, but the blue heron are still there hunting for meals.

Genesee County, like the rest of Western New York, is officially in a drought warning, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation.

That means there are no official restrictions on water use, but residents and businesses are asked to voluntarily conserve.

Tim Hens, whose responsibilities include, as county highway superintendent, watching over the county's water supply, said the county and city discussed issuing a water advisory, but decided that doesn't appear to be necessary and probably won't be necessary through the summer, even if no significant rain arrives before winter.

"We haven't had more than an inch of rain in a single day since October of last year," Hens said. "That's a long time for Western New York."

He said this is the dryest summer with the most consecutive sunny days he can remember in 45 years as a county resident.

"Unfortunately, we're probably already past the point of no return for farmers," he said.

Hens said current reserves and the available water from the Monroe County Water Authority gives the county, and by extension, the city, enough water to meet current needs and he doesn't anticipate a spike in demand.

"Most people seem to have given up on their lawns," he said.

The low water level at DeWitt Recreation Area has created a wide land bridge to the lake's island. The land bridge has been exposed all summer and the first time it's appeared in several years. The current level is just 3 inches above the record low, a record set in 2001.

The long-range forecast calls for a pretty snowy winter.

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April 23, 2016 - 1:36pm

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As part of an Earth Day observance, volunteers came out to the DeWitt Recreation Area in Batavia to help with spring cleanup.

The walk around the park was about more than just trash pickup. It included a guided nature walk led by Amy Jessmer, from Albion, with a degree in environmental science from SUNY Brockport, where she is currently working on her master's degree. Jessmer spoke about native and non-native species and the environmental balance of the lake and surrounding habitat.

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The water level of DeWitt is exceptionally low. George Squires, retired from the county's soil and water department, said he doesn't believe he's seen it this low since the 1980s.

April 9, 2016 - 8:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Steve Hawley, Recycling, environment, news.

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The vehicles filled with electronic waste were lined up and down Route 5 this morning, and by this afternoon, trailers were stuffed and bins were gorged with has-beens of the Digital Age, all destined to appropriate recycling facilities rather than a landfill.

The event outside the county's Social Services building was organized by Assemblyman Steve Hawley and his staff with a heaping trove of help from the Batavia High School Track Team.

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