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Saving Seneca Lake: Sounding the alarm on water quality

Dr. John Halfman, Hobart & William Smith Colleges Professor of Geolimnology & Hydrogeochemistry has been studying Seneca Lake since the early 1990s, and in 2012, he sounded an alarm about the degrading condition of the lake.

“What I see with the scientific evidence I have is Seneca Lake is slowly getting worse and worse over time. If we don’t do something now, the trajectory is such that it will degrade beyond the point of return in 20 or 30 years,” he said in a 2012 video posted online.

Halfman has determined the lake is becoming more turbid, and if that continues it will become eutrophic, meaning it will have high biological productivity. With excessive amounts of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, eutrophic lakes support an abundance of aquatic plants or algae. Halfman warns if the quality continues to decline, Seneca will become a green slimy lake with an algal scum on the surface. He says bluntly, “It will stink.”

As property values decline, municipal tax bases will plummet, and the quality of life in the largest watershed in the Finger Lakes will be changed because of the impact on tourism and the winery industry.

On top of all that, the thousands of households that depend on Seneca Lake for drinking water will have to find another source, he adds.

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