On the opening day of the state’s 524-mile canal system, Canal Corp. officials said they are asking the federal government to declare the entire waterway a “No Discharge Zone.”
The designation would mean that boaters will no longer be able to discharge treated or untreated sewage from boat toilets or holding tanks into the canal waters.
“We want to protect and preserve this treasure,” said Carmella Mantello, director of the state Canal Corp.
The canal system has 87 sewage pump-out stations at various locations across the state. Mantello said most boaters are responsible and use these stations rather than dumping sewage into the canals.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation is making the application to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the No Discharge Zone on behalf of the Canal Corp.
Maureen Wren, a DEC spokeswoman, said there are currently 11 No Discharge Zones in the state, including Lake George, Lake Champlain, Hudson River water intake zones such as the Waterford-Halfmoon area, areas along Long Island and the Hudson River Estuary.
Mantello said Friday that she hopes the canal system can have the No Discharge Zone designation by late summer.
She said that once this designation is in place, law enforcement officers can start ticketing those who violate the regulations.
“It gives law enforcement a tool,” Mantello said during a telephone interview.
She said state police boat patrols out of Troop T and DEC conservation officers patrol sections of the canal system. Some county sheriff’s departments also assign boat patrols on parts of the canal system, she said.
“We are protecting our waters,” Mantello said. “We are trying to promote our waterways, and this is another water quality enhancement.”
By directing boats to use canalside pump-out stations, the state can prevent harmful wastes from entering the canal system and damaging natural resources, the Canal Corp. said in a statement.
The New York State Canal System consists of the Erie, Cayuga-Seneca, Champlain and Oswego canals, which link to the Hudson River, Lake Champlain, Lake Ontario, the Finger Lakes and the Niagara River.
“The designation of a No Discharge Zone in the state canal system will have a meaningful and immediate impact on water quality,” said DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis.
“It will make the waters cleaner, restore aquatic habitat and make recreational opportunities on the canal system more enjoyable,” Grannis said in a statement.
Mantello said the canals are used not just for boating and commercial transport but also for recreational activities such as kayaking and fishing, as well as hiking and biking along its banks.
The state Environmental Facilities Corporation has paid for 75 of the 87 pump-out stations along the canal system.
Having adequate pump-out stations along a waterway is one of the requirements for a No Discharge Zone designation, according to Wren of the DEC.
The application will be submitted to the EPA next week, she said. State officials hope to go through the review and public comment process by late summer.
Mantello said she hopes the Canal Corp. can have the designation by September or sooner.
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Categories: Schenectady County