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Erie County Pennsylvania passes the strongest microbead ban in the nation

August 10th, 2015 | Posted by admin

Congrats to Erie County for passing strongest microbead ban in the nation. Now is the time for New York State to follow.

From the Buffalo News:

State, federal governments should join Erie County in banning microbeads

“It would be helpful for New York to enact a statewide ban, which could help to preserve the Finger Lakes, the Hudson River, Lake Champlain and other waterways. New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, who is pushing for a statewide ban, has estimated that 19 tons of microbeads enter New York waterways each year.

But even a state ban won’t prevent microbeads from continuing to contaminate the Great Lakes to the west, thence to reach the Niagara River, or protect other parts of the country along the Mississippi River and its tributaries, or the lakes and rivers in the West. That’s why federal action is important and, in that regard, it is good to note that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is bringing the issue to Congress.”

Microbeads NY Times Credit

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Show us why you love the River!

July 8th, 2015 | Posted by admin


Save The River / Upper St. Lawrence will be participating in this easy to enter photo contest this month.

Swimmable Water Weekend is July 31 – August 2, and we want you to post photos with the hashtag ‪#‎SwimmableWater‬ whenever you’re out enjoying the water!

Every photo posted that weekend will count as one entry to win a grand prize package including a GoPro Hero, generously donated by Leadership Circle members Dylan and Emmeli Bruno, a Kokatat paddle jacket, KEEN sandals and more! For official rules, head to:

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Great Lakes Waterkeepers and Waterkeeper Alliance Urge Canadian Authorities to Ditch the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump

May 29th, 2015 | Posted by admin

From the Waterkeeper Alliance:

great-lakes-nasa-300x231 (1)NEW YORK, NY – May 27, 2015 – Environmentalists in the Great Lakes Basin are opposed to a new report from a Canadian Joint Review Panel that has called for the support of the Canadian Minister of the Environment to approve a deep geological repository for nuclear waste in Kincardine, Ontario due to its proximity to drinking water supplies for 40 million people in the United States and Canada. The proposed plan from Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is to store underground radioactive nuclear waste less than one mile from the shores of Lake Huron. Canadian officials are getting closer to approving this hazardous project and could even fast track the authorization of a final license within the next few months.

Under the Binational Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (amended in 2012), both Canada and the US acknowledge the importance of anticipating, preventing, and responding to threats to the waters of the Great Lakes.  Both countries share the responsibility and obligation to protect these shared waters from pollution.

“Great Lakes Waterkeepers and Waterkeeper Alliance oppose this project, which could threaten the drinking water supply of 40 million Americans and Canadians,” said Bob Burns, Detroit Riverkeeper. “We ask the U.S. State Department to stand with the citizens, local and state governments, and other stakeholders in the Great Lakes Basin whose voices have not yet been heard but who are at risk if the deep geological repository fails.”

Last September, the groups wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry and Canadian officials urging them to vote against this nuclear storage facility.

“With the Great Lakes containing 95% of the North America’s supply of fresh surface water, this is one of the worst possible locations for a permanent nuclear waste burial facility,” stated Doug Martz, St. Clair Channelkeeper. “Ontario Power Generation, the project proponent, did not investigate any other sites for this repository, but rather, selected the site based on the willingness of one local community. Furthermore, approval of this facility would set a devastating precedent for allowing other nuclear waste repositories to be located in the Great Lakes Basin.”

Marc Yaggi, executive director of Waterkeeper Alliance added: “The Great Lakes are suffering from failing infrastructure, contamination leaching from historical industrial and nuclear waste sites, ongoing agricultural pollution and invasive species. Intentionally siting a new toxic nuclear waste site in such close proximity to the largest fresh water system in the world would severely imperil the water security of two nations. The time to act is now, and we call again on Secretary Kerry to take action.”

The eight Waterkeeper organizations in the Great Lakes support proposed resolutions in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to urge government action to ensure that the Canadian Government does not permanently store nuclear waste underground in the Great Lakes Basin.

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US EPA and Army Corps Issue Weak Clean Water Rule

May 28th, 2015 | Posted by admin

From the Waterkeeper Alliance:

Eno-River-3-300x225New York, NY and Washington, DC – May 27, 2015 – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) final “Clean Water Rule” issued today reduces the agencies’ jurisdiction to protect waters that have been covered under the Clean Water Act (CWA) since the 1970s. The final rule contains some very serious negative provisions including not protecting streams and rivers that have historically been protected under the CWA, exempting industrial-scale livestock facilities, and allowing streams and rivers to be impounded or filled with toxic coal ash and other waste.

The preamble to the rule states: “The scope of jurisdiction in this rule is narrower than that under the existing regulation. Fewer waters will be defined as ‘waters of the United States’ under the rule than under the existing regulations, in part because the rule puts important qualifiers on some existing categories such as tributaries.”

“The final rule inexplicably rolls back protections for streams and rivers, which feed into our water supplies,” said Marc Yaggi, Executive Director of Waterkeeper Alliance. “Since only waters that are included within the final rule can be protected under the core water quality protections and pollution prohibitions of the Clean Water Act, it is frightening to think what this will mean for the tributaries that are no longer covered.”

Strong clean water laws are essential to restoring our nation’s waters, which are still polluted 43 years after passage of the Clean Water Act. Recent reports from the states to EPA show that more than 78% of assessed bays/estuaries and 53% of assessed streams/rivers in the U.S. are unsafe for fishing, drinking, or swimming. The Science Report that underlies the final rule demonstrates that all tributaries need to be protected because “Tributary streams, including perennial, intermittent, and ephemeral streams, are chemically, physically, and biologically connected to downstream waters, and influence the integrity of downstream waters.” However, the agencies stated that they are not “dictated” by the peer-reviewed science, and are reducing protection for tributaries regardless of the science.

Lake Erie, the Chesapeake Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, North Carolina’s coastal estuaries, Puget Sound and many other significant water resources across the country are severely polluted and, in order to restore these waters, it is necessary to control the discharges of pollutants into the smaller waterways that feed into them. For example, tributary streams in the uppermost portions of the Gulf and Bay watersheds transport the majority of nutrients to the downstream waters.

“From the smallest tributary, to the mightiest river, to our lakes, bays and ocean, clean water connects us to many valuable resources. Maintaining legal protection is essential for safeguarding public health and the environment, including drinking water supplies, recreation and fisheries,” stated Chris Wilke, Puget Soundkeeper in Seattle, WA. “The narrowing of jurisdiction proposed by the EPA and the Corps is not supported by sound science or legal precedent.”

Reducing the jurisdictional reach of the Clean Water Act will also likely impact endangered species. For example, many salmon in the Pacific Northwest use drainage ditches and other minor tributaries during their lives. Ephemeral aquatic habitats are important habitats for endangered frogs, insects, and crustaceans like vernal pool fairy shrimp.  Removing these water features from the Clean Water Act’s jurisdiction will mean that these areas could be degraded more easily without proper mitigation being implemented to protect endangered species.

“The EPA’s new clean water rule fails to protect far too many of our waterways, endangering the health of both people and wildlife,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity.  “Without the full protection of the Clean Water Act, critical wetland habitats across the country will be degraded or destroyed, undermining the recovery of dozens of endangered species.”

The EPA also refused to address in the rulemaking a loophole which allows polluters to dam up streams to form waste lagoons that would not be subject to the full protections of the Clean Water Act. In 1980, when EPA last updated the definition of WOTUS under the Clean Water Act discharge permitting regulations, the agency inserted the exclusion as a footnote, two months after the rule had been finalized. When it announced the insertion of the footnote, EPA stated that it “intends promptly to develop a revised definition and to publish it as a proposed rule for public comment. At the conclusion of that rulemaking, EPA will amend the rule, or terminate the suspension.” (45 Fed. Reg. 48620 (July 21, 1980)).

Now, nearly 35 years later, EPA has undertaken a significant revision of the WOTUS definitions, yet it explicitly refused to take comments on the waste treatment system exclusion. This exclusion allows polluters to escape treatment requirements by impounding waters of the United States and claiming the impoundment is a waste treatment system, or by discharging wastes into wetlands. By refusing to accept public comments on the exclusion, EPA appears to be attempting a slight-of-hand maneuver to evade judicial review of this dubious footnote.

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Every day is World Water Day

March 22nd, 2015 | Posted by admin

Great Lakes St Lawrence River from space

All citizens of the world should have access to swimmable, drinkable and fishable water.  And we, along with local, regional, national & international partners are working to restore, protect and preserve the St. Lawrence River, part of the greatest freshwater system on Earth, now and for future generations. Every day is #WorldWaterDay

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Swimmable, Fishable, Drinkable Water

March 17th, 2015 | Posted by admin

Lake Ontario Waterkeeper,Ottawa Riverkeeper & world-wide Waterkeeper Alliance to promote Swimmable, Fishable, Drinkable Water.We speak for the waters we defend.WKA LogoOTRK LogoLOW Logo

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Save The River’s Winter Conference to Feature Panel on Oil Transport

January 5th, 2015 | Posted by admin

Transporting Tar Sands Oil is Problematic

A tug recently sank down river of Montreal, releasing almost 7,000 gallons of fuel that is still being cleaned up. Fault hasn’t been assigned, but is blame important when the fuel or the toxic cargo is already in the water and spreading?

There is a huge difference between a tug and a tanker carrying the equivalent of 300 to 600 rail cars or 1,000 to 2,500 trucks of tar sands oil. It is a difference that should concern everyone who shares the use of the St. Lawrence River. A spill of that magnitude of tar sands oil, a cargo the Coast Guard has admitted it is “not prepared to handle,” would quickly dwarf the capabilities of first responders, would devastate the river for almost any conceivable use, would lay waste to the environment of one of North America’s most significant rivers and devastate the economies of communities along its shores in two countries.

Maybe lower oil prices will temporarily reduce the intense pressure, and thus the risk to our river, that has been building to get tar sands oil to market by whatever means possible. But maybe they won’t because producers will still seek the cheapest transportation alternative without regard to environmental impacts.

The proposals for new pipelines and ship terminals are still around. History shows we frequently construct beyond our ability to mitigate. The river community needs to shape the debate about such shipments and demand that not one drop of heavy oil should be put on a ship or in a rail car on or near the St. Lawrence River until response plans have been developed and tested and the Coast Guard and local first responders have the equipment and training to effectively implement them.

Become involved. Attend our Winter Environmental Conference on Feb. 7. We will have a panel of experts from the Coast Guard, spill responders, academia and advocacy organizations discussing the issue.

Letter to the Editor by Lee Willbanks
Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper / Executive Director

Published by the Watertown Daily Times on January 5th, 2015.

Click here to view the print article.

Click here for conference information.

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Coast Guard not prepared for a ”heavy” oil spill on the St. Lawrence River

September 19th, 2014 | Posted by admin

“Response plans and organization are not capable of responding to heavy oil spills” according to Rear Admiral Fred Midgette, commander of the Coast Guard’s District 9, which includes the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes.

A recent Detroit Free Press article highlighted the findings of a June 2013 Coast Guard report that was “frank on the limitations in dealing with heavy oil that sinks below the surface and makes traditional skimming recovery methods ineffective.” Noting that the report states “Current methods are inadequate to find and recover submerged oil, with responders having to reinvent the techniques on each occasion,” and “responses to recent higher profile submerged oil spills have shown responders have almost no capability in detection and recovery.”

Abay Oil Spill

We on the River know all too well what it means when agencies that are supposed to be prepared aren’t and events occur which exceed training and resources. Oil and water didn’t mix 38 years ago when the NEPCO 140 spilled 300,000 gallons of oil on the St. Lawrence River and they won’t today. But even the disastrous spill of ‘76 would pale in comparison to a spill of the heavier oils that may soon be shipped on the River and Great Lakes.

The Coast Guard and local first responders must be given the tools and resources necessary to develop appropriate action plans and the equipment and training to effectively implement them in the face of massive amounts of “extreme” energy waiting to get to overseas markets.      Alexandria Bay coated by the NEPCO spill, 1976

Kurt Hansen, a project manager at the Coast Guard’s Research and Development Center at New London, Conn. quoted in a recent Detroit Free Press Article, stated “‘Once the [heavy] oil goes below the surface, that sets a whole new set of problems. You’re going to have to figure out if it’s coming back up in tiny little droplets, because that’s going to need one set of recovery response and surveillance. Or, if it goes to the bottom in a clump, that’s going to need another set of response. And if it mixes with the silt and sand and dirt at the bottom, that’s going to need even a third set of response and information that you need.”

Another major oil spill will spell environmental and economic disaster for the St. Lawrence River and the communities that depend on its well being, severely damaging the fishing and recreational boating and killing off wildlife.

Its a lesson the River community hasn’t forgotten and we must make sure our elected officials, decision makers, shippers, the Coast Guard, the Seaway and energy executives don’t either. Before Bakken crude, tar sands oil or other extreme energy moves on the St. Lawrence River there must be a thorough and rigorous examination of the potential impacts and extensive public involvement.

Read the full article from the Detroit Free Press.

For more information on this and other pressing issues in the Great Lakes region click here.

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Save The River Executive Director Attends Annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference

September 16th, 2014 | Posted by admin

Lee Willbanks, Save The River Executive Director and Upper St.Lawrence Riverkeeper attended the 10th Annual Healing Our Waters Great Lakes Restoration Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan last week as a presenter and participant.  Mr. Willbanks was part of a panel examining the impact of aquatic invasive species on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River and the pathways by which they have been introduced.

stop aquatic hitchhikers

Following his presentation, which focused on the role the Saint Lawrence Seaway played in bringing at least 56 invasive species to the River and Lakes, he was interviewed by Detroit Public Television on the same subject. Also presenting with Mr. Willbanks was Lindsay Chadderton, Aquatic Invasive Species Director, at Lakes.The Nature Conservancy, and Rudi Strickler, PhD, Shaw Distinguished Professor, Biological Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The panel was moderated by Nate Drag, Watershed Project Coordinator in New York, Alliance for the Great Lakes.

For Mr. Willbanks’ interview with Detroit Public Television go to:

More than 350 Great Lakes advocates attended the conference that has been held annually since 2005. In addition to the panel on invasive species, there were presentations on controlling harmful algal blooms in Western Lake Erie and elsewhere in the region, the implications of increased crude oil shipping on the Great Lakes, how small plastic pollution is threatening the Great Lakes ecosystem and what’s being done to curb the problem, and mapping the value of the Great Lakes to communities around the region to better target restoration investments.

The Great Lakes Coalition, which Save The River has been an active member of for many years, consists of more than 115 environmental, conservation, and outdoor recreation organizations; zoos, aquariums, and museums representing millions of people who share a common goal: restoring and protecting North America’s greatest freshwater resources, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.

For more information about the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition go to:

The St. Lawrence River connects the Great Lakes to the rest of the world. It is estimated that since the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959 at least 65% of the invasive species introduced to the Great Lakes have come from ocean going ships entering via the River. Save The River and the Great Lakes Coalition both are working to control and prevent the spread of invasive species.

For more information about Save The River go to:

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Save The River Reports on Week 8 of Beach Watch Program

August 27th, 2014 | Posted by admin

Clayton, NY (August 25, 2014) – Save The River’s Beach Watch Program is in the process of monitoring popular summer swimming locations on the river from July 7th through August 25th .  Save The River reports that all beach water samples taken on August 25th passed and the beaches are safe for swimming.

For the 2014 sampling season, Save The River volunteers are collecting water quality samples at six swimming areas along the river: Wilson Beach in Cape Vincent, Potter’s Beach on Grindstone Island, Frink Dock in Clayton, Round Island in Clayton, Lake of the Isles on Wellesley Island, and Scenic View Park in Alexandria Bay. Save The River’s unique program provides a snapshot of water quality at popular swimming areas during the peak recreational swimming season. This is the last sampling date for this year.

As in previous years, Save The River is testing for E. coli in all of our swimming spots and will compare water quality results with state and federal regulations. The results will be made available to the public each week with a pass/ fail system that is available at the Save The River office, website, and by following Save The River on Facebook and Twitter. Results will also be posted on and in the TI Sun.

For more information please call the Save The River offices at (315)-686-2010. Additional information can also be found at

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