The weather is getting cooler, but Owasco Lake is not out of the woods yet when it comes to harmful algal blooms.
Latest test results from the Cayuga County Health Department continue to show microcystin, a liver toxin released by harmful algae, in the raw lake water entering the city of Auburn's and town of Owasco's treatment plants. The drinking water, however, has remained free of toxins and is safe to consume.
The latest samples posted to the department's website were taken on Wednesday, Oct. 18. Results show microcystin was detected in the raw lake water of Auburn at 0.39 micrograms per liter and 0.17 for the town of Owasco. Samples from Monday, Oct. 16, show toxins were detected at 0.27 micrograms per liter in the raw water at Auburn and 0.28 micrograms per liter at Owasco.
The health department continues to sample the water and send it for testing at the state Department of Health's Wadsworth Center in Albany three times a week. The department will do so until no toxins are detected in the raw water, said Environmental Health Director Eileen O'Connor in an email to The Citizen.
Meanwhile, the Owasco Lake Watershed Inspection Program has not tested any algae samples for the month of October. Watershed Inspector Tim Schneider wrote in an email to The Citizen that the program has had calls about small, localized blooms but nothing significant enough to test. The program has used 23 tests out of 36 currently allocated by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Schneider said it could have used up all the tests this year, but by sampling zones week to week and not sampling algal blooms that were near each other, they've kept the number down.
"The weather is still favorable for a bloom," he added, "but we typically do not see blooms in high frequency after the first 2 weeks of October, although blooms have been seen in (N)ovember by some volunteers."
Cayuga Lake has also had some significant harmful algal blooms this summer. The health department has occasionally tested the drinking water at the Wells College water treatment plant, and the latest sample from Tuesday, Oct. 17 shows no microcystin detected in the raw lake water or the drinking water.
Water from Skaneateles Lake also continues to be tested for toxins. Latest results from samples collect on Oct. 18 show no detection of microcystin throughout the water distribution system. Toxins were detected on Oct. 17 in the village of Skaneateles' gatehouse at 0.24 micrograms per liter. They were also detected in the ultra-violet plant in Elbridge at 0.16 micrograms per liter. According to the state Department of Health, the Elbridge result is an anomaly because the result was inconsistent with all previous drinking water samples.
Across the state, the number of reported harmful algal blooms has dropped over the past week. The DEC's page tracking blooms was updated Friday afternoon with 39 reported across the state, down from 54 a week before. Both Cayuga and Owasco lakes were on the latest list with small, localized blooms suspected from visual reports. Skaneateles Lake was dropped from the latest list.
Two town board members are looking to take their political careers to the next level, but only one will succeed in the race for Elbridge town supervisor.
Rita A. Dygert and Vernon J. Richardson have both been on the town board for more than a decade and both will be on the ballot in November. Dygert will run on the Conservative and Independence party lines while Richardson is listed on the Republican and Democratic lines; Richardson defeated Dygert in the Republican primary last month by about 150 votes.
Both Dygert and Richardson entered the race after current Town Supervisor Ken Bush Jr. decided to run for the Onondaga County Legislature. Bush is challenging incumbent Derek Shepard, of Baldwinsville, to represent District 13, which includes the towns of Camillus, Elbridge and Van Buren.
Dygert, 73, has been on the Elbridge Town Board since 2000. At the time she was selected, Dygert said she never intended to make a career in politics, seeking part-time work while she returned to school for management. However, once she got started, Dygert said she just couldn't quit.
"The nature of the work is such that it takes forever to really get anything done ... and there are a number of areas that I believe need to grow," Dygert said. "I just want to be able to help make this community the best that it can be."
In 2011, Dygert became the deputy supervisor for the town. As such, she said she has worked hard to secure grant funding for various projects in the community — including a new pavilion next to the community center — and pursued efforts to consolidate services with the village of Jordan, something she would continue to do as town supervisor.
"It is important to make sure our local government is operating at maximum efficiency ... at the lowest cost possible," Dygert said. "I would like to unify this community ... and I believe the growth of our community and the expansion of our tax base is vital for our future."
On that, Richardson said he agreed.
A native of Elbridge, Richardson, 67, has been a member of the town board for 12 years. He was also on the zoning board of appeals for five years, which he called a "stepping stone" to the town board.
One of Richardson's top priorities as town supervisor would also be to update zoning regulations, he said, making them less restrictive for businesses and property owners. He also would look to consolidate some services, particularly the Elbridge and Jordan fire departments.
"There is a concern with the response time with departments that are further away," Richardson said, noting that the town currently contracts with Jordan. "People would like Elbridge (Fire Department) back on board."
Richardson said the residents ultimately inspired him to run for town supervisor, a position he feels he can fulfill with experience, both from the board and a 32-year career as a contractor.
"(Residents) asked me a long time ago ... to seriously consider running because they thought I could go a good job," he said. "If I get elected, I'm independently minded and my door will always be open. I will always listen to people's concerns and suggestions on how to make our town government better."
Dygert said her history on the board and 30-year career in federal service (primarily with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management) have made her a strong candidate to consider.
"Given my management background and the experience I have acquired in local government ... I believe I am the most qualified candidate to lead the town forward," she said. "I want to strengthen the community."
New York State has made more crime victims eligible to receive compensation, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday.
According to a press release, victims of hate crimes and vulnerable elderly or disabled individuals who have lost up to $30,000 in savings can now seek compensation from the state Office of Victim Services.
The legislation expands eligibility to victims who are not physically injured, widening the safety net for people who have no other way to pay expenses resulting from a crime. It took effect Tuesday, Oct. 17, and applies to claims filed with the Office of Victim Services on or after that date.
Cuomo said the agency provides compensation to eligible victims to cover medical and counseling bills, funeral and burial costs and lost wages — costs that were incurred because of the crime. Prior to this legislation, eligibility for compensation was limited to victims who suffered physical injuries.
"Ensuring that crime victims receive the support they need to recover and restore a sense of normalcy to their lives is vitally important," Cuomo said. "These changes to expand compensation eligibility demonstrate New York's continued commitment to helping vulnerable New Yorkers and people who are victimized by crime."
Eligible elderly and disabled individuals must be incapable of caring for themselves. Vulnerable elderly must be at least 60 years old.
"Crime victims don't need to suffer from a physical injury to be scarred from their ordeal," said Elizabeth Cronin, the director of the Office of Victim Services. "Those who fall victim to hate crimes, elder abuse and other serious crimes ... find themselves deeply traumatized and in need of a helping hand. This legislative change will allow us to extend assistance to an even greater number of innocent crime victims."
Cuomo said the change comes at no cost to taxpayers, as funding comes entirely from the fines, mandatory surcharges and crime victim assistance fees that certain offenders must pay following a conviction.
For more information, visit ovs.ny.gov.
SENNETT — A combination convenience store, restaurant and smokers shop in Sennett is debuting a new business avenue: a self-serve pub.
Munchies, a convenience store with a Smokers Choice shop, opened the pub Friday, and a beer tasting will be held Saturday. The store itself opened in July.
The Sennett location will be the first store in the Munchies chain to have a pub where customers can pour the brew themselves, the first of its kind in the area. Identification will be checked at the door to ensure patrons are of legal drinking age. Customers will be given an electronic card pre-loaded with their chosen dollar amount, like a gift card.
Displays for each beer on tap will have a description of the brew. Putting the card in the beer's slot will allow customers to see the price per ounce. Putting the card in the slot will unlock the tap, with a noticeable unlocking sound. Dwayne Phillips, vice president of operations for Smokers Choice, said the price ranges from 14 cents per ounce to 48 cents per ounce, depending on the beer.
Patrons can pour up to 32 ounces within the span of an hour, as a measure to help people drink responsibility. Employees will be circulating in the pub — which includes a menu and features several televisions — to help customers and to verify customer ages.
Beers on tap early Friday afternoon ranged from standards like Coors Light to "higher-end" crafts like the Ithaca Flower Power IPA from the Ithaca Beer Company, Phillips said. Drinks from other local breweries like Young Lion Brewing Company in Canandaigua are featured, as well.
Phillips said he was "excited and a little stressed out" about the pub's launch, as the soft opening Friday was meant to help work out any kinks in operations. He said many customers have had the same excited "Wait, what?" reactions to hearing about the tap room.
Jimmy Corella, director of operations for the Smokers Choice northwestern territories, said the pub was planned for the Sennett store from the beginning.
The pub was the brainchild of Smokers Choice Owner and Vice President Doug Nolan, Phillips said. Phillips said part of Nolan's vision was to "have a business that really caters and offers something to everyone." On top of the pub addition, the store and restaurant features the inventory of a convenience store plus cigars and cigarettes, restaurant food, ice cream and a salad bar.
Christina Davis, who came in to check out the area, said she was impressed by the "inviting and cozy" atmosphere.
"I love the fact that you can serve yourself, that's really cool," Davis said.