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Sodium content in Seneca Lake a concern

The Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association (SLPWA) has written to State Health Commissioner, Howard A. Zucker, M.D., J.D., about the health impacts of the high sodium content in Seneca Lake and requested his intervention to have better, more inclusive monitoring as well as an information campaign to notify at risk populations and their health providers of the risk. LETTERThe sodium content of Seneca Lake is 4 times the level of any of the other Finger Lakes, and is 4 times the recommended level for drinking water for those on restricted sodium diets and infants. But, not all the water supplies using the lake for its source are testing for sodium. Worse, the current regulatory structure does not require notification of those on lake wells who might be impacted by the sodium. So many at risk individuals are not aware.“SLPWA believes that, because of the unusual sodium content of Seneca Lake, a significant water supply, that additional action by the state is warranted,” said Mary Anne Kowalski, President of SLPWA. “For some time, we have talked about the “salinity” in Seneca Lake. Until recently, sodium and its potential health impact have not been linked to the ‘salinity.’ Now that it is clear that sodium is a key contributor to the ‘salinity,’ more needs to be done by the State.”According to Paula Fitzsimmons, a physician assistant and SLPWA board member, “the at-risk populations are infants and adults with kidney disease, hypertension, and other sodium-sensitive conditions such as congestive heart failure. Sodium is crucial to nerve impulses, electrolyte balance, and fluid balance. Patients and practitioners should be properly informed.”The required warning for public water supplies is: Water containing more than 20mg/l of sodium should not be used for drinking by people on severely restricted sodium diets. SLPWA is investigating why salinity isn’t included in the drinking water testing for some of the community and non-transient non community water supplies using water from Seneca Lake. Another significant problem is the lack of notice to families using Seneca Lake as a water source.SLPWA is also working to assure that health care professionals are alerted when an entire watershed is considered high in sodium. Health care professionals in the watershed area have not received any Public Health notice that ALL of the drinking water from the lake is high in sodium and therefore no infant formulas should be made with this water, nor should at risk adults be drinking it. “We do not usually think of drinking water as a source of sodium. We are in general encouraging everyone to drink more water! And for the majority with healthy kidneys, this works” said Paula Fitzsimmons. Water Supply – SodiumGeneva -72 mg/LWaterloo – 79 mg/LWillard Drug Treatment Center – 78 mg/LOvid – 72 mg/LWatkins Glen – Not ReportedHector – Not Reported More about Sodium in Drinking Water:The World Health Organization (WHO) provided a review in March of 2015, stating that the variation in drinking water sources in the world is broad, from <20mg/liter to over 200 mg/liter. Populations with low sodium intake have lower incidence of hypertension and do not have the age associated increase in blood pressure that we have in the United States. Although salt is absolutely a critical mineral for the human body, there is not agreement on required daily amounts. Guidelines are 120-400 mg in infants and children and 500 mg for adults. Nor is sodium regulated; the EPA has it on the “contaminant candidate list” which gives the agency authority to monitor and study it further but it is much further down the list of concerns than many other contaminants due to lack of data on human impact. Therefore, there is a general “recommendation” that a warning be given to at risk populations if the drinking water salinity exceeds 20 mg/liter and there is even some consensus that this level could safely be a little higher.The at risk populations are infants and adults with kidney disease, hypertension, and other sodium-sensitive conditions such as congestive heart failure. Sodium is crucial to nerve impulses, electrolyte balance, and fluid balance. The kidney is responsible for elimination of sodium and therefore must be functioning fully for the sensitive balance of sodium in the bloodstream to be maintained. Infants have undeveloped kidneys; for them, hypernatremia (high sodium in the blood stream) can lead to permanent neurologic damage. Acute sodium toxicity leads to nausea, vomiting, convulsions, worsening of congestive heart failure, and cerebral and pulmonary edema. The association between sodium and hypertension is not completely understood but a high percentage of people with hypertension are sodium sensitive, i.e., sodium intake will raise their blood pressure. The usual medical caution is to limit sodium to 2000 mg/day for these people. A teaspoon of table salt contains about 2300 mg of sodium. The average American consumes 4000-6000 mg daily. With the SLPWA stream monitoring, and the lake monitoring done by Finger Lakes Institute and Community Science Institute, we find variations in the sodium levels. But the actual health recommendation should be made over 20 mg/liter. At this time there is no sodium testing included in the Hector Town or Watkins Glen Annual Water Quality Reports (AWQR). Those that are testing for sodium and finding elevated levels must include the following warning in their annual water quality report:Water containing more than 20mg/l of sodium should not be used for drinking by people on severely restricted sodium diets. About Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association:The 25-year old Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association (www.senecalake.org) is dedicated to "enhancing and preserving the quality of Seneca Lake". It received a 2013 U.S. EPA Environmental Quality Award for an outstanding commitment to protecting and enhancing environmental quality and public health. The Environmental Quality Award is the highest recognition presented to the public by EPA. The SLPWA website at http://www.senecalake.org/ has current information about activities and complete comments on the dSGEIS and regulations.

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