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For Release: Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Federal Study Confirms Progress in Restoring the Niagara River Area of Concern

DEC Seeks Input on Proposal; Meeting Scheduled for August 25

According to a recent study by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), fish tumors associated with exposure to toxic chemicals are no longer occurring at an elevated rate in the Niagara River. Based on the study's results, DEC is proposing to submit a beneficial use impairment removal proposal to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The public is invited to submit input on the draft proposal for the Niagara River Area of Concern.

"The results of this study confirm that water quality in the Niagara River Area of Concern is improving," said DEC Great Lakes Coordinator Don Zelazny. "Based on the positive results of this study, DEC proposes to no longer consider fish tumors as a use impairment within the Area of Concern."

Currently, there are seven beneficial use impairments that exist in the Niagara River Area of Concern as a result of chemical, physical or biological disturbances to the ecosystem. Fish tumors or other deformities are one of the impairments, based on the results of two studies conducted in the 1980s that showed higher than normal tumor rates in the river's fish.

USFWS undertook the study in 2011 to evaluate whether fish tumors or other deformities continued to be an impairment on the U.S. side of the Niagara River Area of Concern. The study, which focused on liver tumors in brown bullhead catfish, found no significant difference between tumor rates in the Niagara River and an uncontaminated reference site, Long Point Inner Bay (Ontario) on Lake Erie. Experts commonly associate brown bullhead liver tumors with exposure to contaminants. Brown bullhead are also considered ideal indicators of local environmental conditions because they are a bottom-dwelling fish and have a limited home range.

Based on the results of the USFWS study, DEC is preparing to submit a formal beneficial use impairment removal proposal to EPA. A draft of the proposal with supporting technical information may be viewed at DEC's website.

The public is invited to submit input on the draft proposal. DEC will review all comments received as it finalizes the impairment removal proposal. Comments may be submitted by mail or e-mail by September 11, 2015 to:

Mark Filipski
270 Michigan Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14203
E-mail: greatlakes@dec.ny.gov

DEC will also accept comments at a public meeting to be held from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 25 at the Grand Island Memorial Library, 1715 Bedell Road, Grand Island.

Under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the United States and Canada designated a total of 43 Areas of Concern due to the presence of serious pollution problems to a greater degree than in the rest of the Great Lakes. The Niagara River AOC includes the entire 37 mile long river. The Province of Ontario and the State of New York developed separate Remedial Action Plans designed to restore the beneficial uses for the river's Canadian and U.S. sides.

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