Letter to the Editor:
“As a person well-versed in environmental law and water quality regulations, I would like to respond to comments made in the Discussion Group. Fecal coliform, whether human or animal-generated, can cause health problems. While it is possible to tell whether the bacteria are from humans or animals, the fact is that our health can be affected either way. In addition, both humans and animals can pass along cysts, such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium, which can affect swimmers, especially those who are immunocompromised.
Differentiating between human and animal sources is important, though, from another standpoint – it provides insight as to how to resolve the problem. There are bird discouragement devices that could be useful if the source is avian, and there are measures that could be taken to reduce human pollution, if that is the determined source of the coliform.
I would also like to comment on the dialogue about changing dredging regulations. In a US navigable water, the US Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for permitting and enforcing dredging activities, subject to federal regulations promulgated by USEPA. It would not be feasible in any short- or even long-term horizon to effect major changes in these regulations, which resulted from federal laws. The process to propose changes to federal regulations is cumbersome and could take many years. Not much different is the process to change state regulations, promulgated by NYSDEC. I would not count on the ability of our group, no matter how active or vocal, to get current dredging regulations changed.
Having said that, there’s certainly an advantage of a well-informed and dedicated group speaking out with one voice. There are many interpretations of environmental laws that can be made, and pushing for the appropriate interpretations at the town level is certainly advantageous. So I encourage our group’s activities and will do everything I can to support them, but I advise us to be realistic about possible outcomes and ability to make meaningful changes at the state or federal level.