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S.3932, Microbead-Free Waters Act from TI High School’s SAFE Club

June 16th, 2015 | Posted by admin

Dear Leader Flanagan and Chairman O’Mara:

We are writing to express our strong support for S.3932, the Microbead-Free Waters Act. Our club, Student Activists For the Environment (SAFE) chose microbeads as the environmental issue we would focus our attention on this year. We conducted a school-wide campaign to increase awareness of microbeads, because many students use the products with microbeads unknowingly.  We put up posters, created a FaceBook page and a petition supporting S.3932.  We were the only student group to participate in Microbead Lobbying Day in May, traveling to Albany to present our campaign.  Our school district is on the banks of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, so microbead pollution is very real to us.  Our waterways need the protection of S.3932!

According to the Office of NYS AG Eric Schneiderman. “Unseen Threat: How Microbeads Threaten New York Waters, Wildlife, Health, and Environment.” (2014), it is estimated that 19 tons of microbeads enter the wastewater stream in NY annually. A study in 2013 found as many 1.1 million microplastics per square kilometer in Lake Ontario. Since the outlet of the Great Lakes is the St. Lawrence River, all these microbeads are flowing into “our” river!

Safer, non-polluting, natural alternatives can be used as abrasives in personal care products instead of plastic microbeads. “Biodegradable” is a misleading claim.  Biodegradable plastics tend not to actually biodegrade, but instead simply break down into smaller pieces that will remain in the environment for a long time. In addition to being harmful pollutants themselves, microbeads absorb other toxic chemicals once in the environment, including PCBs and DDT, among others. Fish and other aquatic organisms, including birds and invertebrates, have been shown to ingest microbeads.  Once ingested, these pollutants move up the food chain and into our food supply.

The Microbead-Free Waters Act (S.33932) would ensure that all manufacturers eliminate the use of all plastic microbeads in a timely manner, before additional damage is done. The timing of the ban is critical, starting in 2016.    This ban would include so called “biodegradable plastics.”  New York’s Microbead-Free Waters Act would “raise the bar” on the Illinois law, effectively driving the market toward safer alternatives throughout the nation and beyond. The bill already includes compromises to address industry concerns, including an exemption for prescription medications, and providing an extra year before the ban takes effect for products that require FDA approval.

With 37 Senate cosponsors and the near unanimous passage in the Assembly earlier this year, we urge the Senate to schedule a floor vote before you depart Albany on June 17.  This legislation has broad, bipartisan support from senators of every region and across the political spectrum. There is no acceptable reason to keep it from receiving a fair floor vote.

We strongly urge the Senate to pass S.3932 this year, protecting New Yorkers from the negative health and environmental impacts of microbead pollution.


Student Activists For the Environment (SAFE) Club

Thousand Islands High School

Clayton, NY 13624

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TI High School SAFE Club and Save The River Attend Microbead Lobbying Day

May 14th, 2015 | Posted by admin

Published by the Thousand Islands Sun on May 13, 2015

Thousand Islands High School SAFE Club members Ashley Byers and John Hunter traveled to Albany on May 5, along with the Club Advisor Mrs. Eleanor Thomas and Save The River Program Director Mrs. Kate Breheny, for Microbead Lobbying Day 2015.   Ashley and John were the only high school students that participated in the Lobbying Day.

Each group was assigned a professional lobbyist – the TI Lobby Team worked with Mr. Richard Schrader, Political and Legislative Director for NY Natural Resources Defense Council.

IMG_6522Mr. Schrader started out each session with general comments about the differences between the two bills Senator O’Mara sponsored, then Mrs. Breheny spoke about the River being the lifeblood of our communities.  Mrs. Thomas discussed the biomagnification of toxins up through food chains due to the microbeads, and John and Ashley finished with descriptions of the #TIBeatsBeads campaign the SAFE Club is carrying out in the High School and local community.  They also discussed the huge amount of microbeads entering NYS waterways each year (38,000 pounds!), and displayed the vial of microbeads they sieved out of one tube of facial cleanser, as well as examples of microbead face wash and a safe alternative.

The TI Lobby Team met with Senators Golden, Marchione, Felder, Ritchie, Stavisky, and Griffo, or their chief counsels, and was successful in getting two of the Senators to agree to sign on to support the stronger of the two anti-microbead bills.  The Senators commented on the power of the visual displays.  Mr. Schrader took the TI Lobby Team on a tour of the Capitol Building during lunch break, viewing the Assembly and Senate Floors, the Million Dollar Stairway, and the beautiful architecture. To end the day, all of the lobby teams met with Attorney General Schneiderman to report out on the lobbying day.  The goal of Microbead Lobbying Day was to persuade 4 more Senators to sign on to sponsor the “good” bill (S.3932) vs the “industry” bill, and it appears the goal was met.  Hopefully it will be enacted into law by the end of this session. The Assembly already passed A. 5896, “The Microbead-Free Waters Act,” by an overwhelming majority of 139 to 1. The bill would prohibit the sale of personal cosmetic products containing synthetic plastic microbeads after January 1, 2016.

Microbeads Lobby DaySAFE Club would like to thank Save The River for providing the opportunity to participate in Microbead Lobbying Day 2015.  This trip not only allowed SAFE Club to actually practice some environmental activism, it also fulfilled all four graduate descriptors that TI graduates must prove in their Commencement Standard Assessment Graduation Presentation:  Effective Communicator, Effective Problem Solver, Healthy, Skilled & Knowledgeable Person, and Contributing U.S. and Global Citizen.

Ashley reflected on the day:  “I will remember all of the interesting people that were there standing up for what they believed in.  Being a High School student at Microbead Lobby Day was refreshing because we were the only people there that could talk about the issue at hand from a teenager’s perspective. It was important to me because not only did I have the opportunity to stand up for a good cause but I was also able to practice my public speaking.  Speaking with Senator Ritchie stood out most in my mind because she is our Senator, and I was really impressed by the amazing architecture of the Capitol Building.  The most important action concerned citizens can take regarding microbeads is to spread awareness in our local community.  There are safe alternatives.” John also felt that the most memorable part of the day was meeting Senator Ritchie.  “Microbeads are an important issue for everybody that lives near the River.”

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7News This Morning Covers Approaching Winter Conference

January 30th, 2015 | Posted by Lee

Thanks to 7News This Morning with Jeff Cole and Beth Hall for inviting us on the show to talk about Save The River’s 26th Annual Winter Environmental Conference.

Executive Director / Riverkeeper Lee Willbanks spoke with John Moore and Beth Hall about the Conference’s focus on issues facing the St. Lawrence River – the potential transport of tar sands oil on the River, the status of a new water levels plan, the health of the fishery and where the effort to ban microbeads stands. Save The River’s education programs will also be highlighted.

See the clip: Exec. Dir. on 7News This Morning

The Conference is next Saturday, February 7th at the 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel. For more information and how to register call 315-686-2010 or visit the conference page

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Save The River Honors Thousand Islands Middle School Students at Fall Awards Event

January 7th, 2015 | Posted by admin

On December 18, 2014 Save The River staff presented Junior Riverkeeper Awards to four students at Thousand Islands Middle School.  All four seventh graders, Luke Riddoch, Annika Balk, Mikayla Cipullo and Kristi Bushey, participated in Save The River’s In The Schools program with the rest of their classmates in teacher Mary Bowman’s science class.

Mrs. Bowman has been using Save The River’s In The Schools curriculum program since 2009 to bring River related science to her classroom and students. Her focus is teaching her students about the importance of water quality and invasive species on the St. Lawrence River.

Mrs. Bowman’s class attended an On The Water field trip this past fall where they participated in a Junior Riverkeeper Training, the study of macro invertebrates, a hike on Wellesley Island at the Minna Anthony Common Nature Center and conducting a water quality study while out on the river with Clayton Island Tours.  Students in were then asked to write about their experiences while on the field trip and about using the River as their classroom for the day. The students were told that the best journal entry would be submitted to the Thousand Island Sun to be printed in the October 29th edition.

Luke Riddoch, Annika Balk, Mikayla Cipullo and Kristi Bushey were the class finalists. Luke Riddoch’s entry was selected as the winner and was published in the Thousand Islands Sun with Luke receiving well deserved credit as a contributing writer. These four students were honored at the Thousand Islands Middle School winter awards assembly for their hard work and dedication to learning about the River.

2014-12-18 Jr. RIverkeeper Award

Left to Right: Kate Breheny, Save The River Program Manager, Luke Riddoch, Annika Balk, Mikayla Cipullo, Kristi Bushey, Lee Willbanks, Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper & Save The River Executive Director

Published by the Thousand Islands Sun on December 31st, 2014

Click here to see the print article.

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Catch & Release End of the Year Update – 2014

December 19th, 2014 | Posted by Lee

This summer Save The River added smallmouth bass to our longstanding Catch and Release program.Addison Swenson

Since 1987 we have promoted catch and release fishing for Muskellunge, a species threatened on the St. Lawrence River, saving over 1,000 of these iconic fish. The addition of bass to Save The River’s Catch and Release Program is a continuation of our efforts to improve the overall health of the St. Lawrence River and to ensure a healthy, sustainable fishery.

We are adding lessons on catch and release to current In The Schools and On The Water programs for K-12 students. Students will learn about the different types of fish in the River, what impacts have been made on bass populations and how to properly practice catch and release techniques.

Catch yes, but eat fresh and release the rest.

Click here to go to the full update.

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Haas The Great Blue Heron Now Available

August 27th, 2014 | Posted by admin

Save The River has published an illustrated children’s book, Haas The Great Blue Heron. It is the tale of a father heron anxiously awaiting the arrival of his chick. This beautifully illustrated book is a wonderful introduction to the Great Blue Heron and its habitat, the St. Lawrence River.

Save The River Volunteer Juliane Flora authored Haas for teachers and students participating in its In the Schools education program that teaches students in area schools about the River’s ecology and need for protection. Each year over 500 K-12 students receive classroom instruction and many of them also get hands-on experience with a field trip to the River.


For an inside look at Haas The Great Blue Heron click here.

Haas The Great Blue Heron is currently available at

A limited number of quantities are also available at Save The River’s office. Proceeds from the sale of Haas will directly support Save The River’s In the Schools program.

Publication of Haas The Great Blue Heron was made possible by a grant from the Northern New York Community Foundation Youth Philanthropy Council.

For further information please contact Kate Breheny, Program Manager, at

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Save The River Comments on Plan 2014

August 30th, 2013 | Posted by Lee

From a letter submitted today to the International Joint Commission,

Save The River, the Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper, representing over 4,000 members and followers, submits this letter to express unambiguous support for the International Joint Commission’s Plan 2014 for the regulation of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. . .

Those of us who live, work, play, visit and love the River believe it can be restored and believe the Commission and our federal governments must act to implement Plan 2014 now, because all of us – riparians, non-riparians, boaters, paddlers, hunters, anglers, birders and those who simply want to leave a healthy, vital and thriving River to the generations that follow – have a place on the water.

The full text of the letter can be viewed here.

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More on “Marsh Madness”

December 20th, 2012 | Posted by Lee

More great coverage in Thousand Islands of 7th graders doing science to examine the impact on River health of natural levels and flows.

“Sometimes Mother Nature needs a hand. Low water levels on the St. Lawrence presented environmental groups the perfect opportunity to help. On October 10th, dozens of seventh grade Environmental Science students from Alexandria Central School pulled on their boots and headed to Wellesley Island.”

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NCPR Coverage of “Marsh Madness” Cattail Project

October 24th, 2012 | Posted by Lee
Removing the duff

Removing the duff

The students seem to “get it”.

I think it’s actually really good for the meadow marshes to come back. And it’s like, a good experience for kids my age. And I also think it’s really fun.”

I liked the fact that we had to go through all the cattails, like a maze. It was pretty cool. And knowing that we’re helping the environment by doing it, and doing all the research – I thought that was pretty cool.”

Our cattail project with SUNY-ESF was the subject of a tremendous story by NCPR reporter Joanna Richards. These quotes are taken from it.

We also appreciate Ms. Richards’ attention to the context – the impact of constrained water levels and the need for a more natural levels and flow regime – Plan Bv7.

No amount of yanking up cattails can make up for the damage done by the water levels regime of the last 50 years. Save The River wants to get the word out that a proposed new plan – called BV7 – would help marshes like Eel Bay return to greater biodiversity.

Any awareness we can bring to it, whether it’s through seventh graders doing something like this and us publicizing it, or working with the villages and towns to go and talk to DEC and to the governor’s office, we’re just trying to get people to understand that this is a reasonable plan.”

It is worth a read. AND a listen.

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Marsh Madness: The Great Cattail Experiment!

October 13th, 2012 | Posted by Lee

Earlier this week, as part of its In the Schools program, Save The River, SUNY–ESF and local middle school students worked together on an experiment to help the students understand the effects of water levels in their own backyard.

Group panorama

Dr. Farrell talks to the group

Working with SUNY-ESF professor Dr. John Farrell and graduate researcher Matt Regan, 45 7th graders from Alexandria Central School engaged in a field study examining wetland responses to water levels. Students inventoried and excavated test plots at specific elevations, and monitored the effectiveness of removing the cattail mat and exposing the historic seed bank. This study is linked to efforts to get a more natural water levels regulation plan implemented – such as the currently proposed Plan Bv7.

The "Muskie" group hard at work

The "Muskie" group hard at work

The experiment was designed to help students understand what River wetlands should be like (instead of wall-to-wall cattails), and indeed would be like if Plan Bv7 were implemented. The students removed the cattail mat in specific areas, and exposed the historic seed bank underneath. Over time, the species that return should be more diverse and represent a healthier mix of plants that in turn supports more fish and wildlife. The students will be able to monitor these changes over time and experience the impacts that water levels have on the River first hand.

This project was the result of a lot of hard work and collaboration. Thanks to SUNY-ESF and the Thousand Island Biological Station, Mary Mitchell and the team of 7th grade teachers from Alexandria Central Schools, The Minna Anthony Commons Nature Center and Wellesley Island State Park and, of course, staff of Save The River Kate Breheny and Stephanie Weiss.

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