Stirpe: Safeguarding our water is critical for our families’ health

Al Stirpe

Stirpe: Safeguarding our water is critical for our families’ health

August is National Water Quality Month, an important time to remember what we can do to protect ourselves from harmful toxins that can compromise the quality of our drinking water and natural resources. By being proactive, we can keep ourselves safe from dangerous chemicals.

Central New York is home to many beautiful lakes and ponds, most of which contain algae, which is usually harmless and crucial to our region’s ecosystem. However, certain species of algae, known as harmful algal blooms (HABs), produce toxins that are dangerous to humans and animals.[1] Just last summer, Skaneateles Lake, which provides drinking water for Skaneateles, Syracuse and other communities in Onondaga County, saw higher than normal levels of toxins in the water from HABs.[2]

HABs most frequently occur in calm, nutrient-rich waters and flourish during the hot summer months. They typically appear foamy and look like spilled green paint, but it can be difficult to distinguish HABs from other harmless algae. For this reason, it’s best to avoid swimming, boating or drinking water from a source with any algal blooms, floating mats, scums or discolored water of any sort. You can also visit the DEC’s list of waterbodies that currently have blooms as another precaution.

Clean, safe drinking water should be accessible to all New Yorkers, which is why I fought to secure $65 million in this year’s state budget to support programs that will help combat HABs in our local waterbodies. I am also currently working on creating a tax credit to encourage homeowners and businesses to use permeable materials when building patios, driveways, sidewalks and parking lots (A.673). This will help ensure excess water drains directly into the ground, instead of becoming runoff that drags debris and pollution into our lakes and streams, which can harm fish and make it unsafe to swim.

Unfortunately, there are other harmful toxins that put our community’s drinking water at risk, including mercury.[3]Mercury is an odorless, silvery liquid that evaporates at room temperature and, if ingested, can cause long-term damage to humans and animals. The risk of mercury exposure increases if you have old thermometers in your home, which can cause great damage if they break.[4]

If you have any mercury-containing items like thermometers or thermostats in your home, you can dispose of them through the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency (OCRRA). They will be holding a mercury takeback event onMonday, Aug. 13, at 5808 Rock Cut Road in Jamesville from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. to collect any thermostats or thermometers containing mercury for safe disposal, free of charge. If you have any other mercury-containing items, you can make a toxics disposal appointment through OCRRA. I encourage you to take advantage of this helpful and potentially lifesaving opportunity. For more information on OCRRA and to register for the event, visit

As always, I’m here to help. If you have any questions or concerns about this or any other community issue, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 315-452-1115 or at





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