By BRIAN TUMULTY
Gannett Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Sewage discharges by boaters on Lake Ontario will be banned starting next week, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday.
Canada already bans these discharges on its side of the lake.
The move is expected to reduce the number of summer days beaches are closed to swimming, Sen. Chuck Schumer said in a conference call with EPA officials announcing the ban.
Ontario Beach in Monroe County was closed for 35 percent of the summer season, Schumer said.
EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck agreed there will be an improvement, but other larger problems remain.
"I think it's going to help a lot," Enck said. "But we also need to deal with the need to upgrade sewage treatment plants, get a better handle on storm-water pollution. Those are actually the big drivers here."
The ban also will protect the health of boaters.
"It can pose a health threat, most specifically GI (gastrointestinal) problems if people are swimming in this water," Enck said. "And we do know on a hot summer day it's pretty common that boaters themselves swim right near their boats. And we don't want them exposed to pathogens."
In addition, 10 municipal water systems along the 326-mile lake shoreline use it as a source of drinking water for 760,000 people.
New York State has identified 37 marina pump-out stations that owners of the region's 5,700 recreational boats can use to discharge their sewage. Nine are in Monroe County, another four are in Wayne County and two are in Orleans County.
Some municipal marinas allow pump-outs for free, while private marinas typically charge $5 to $10.
New York has more than a dozen federally protected no-discharge zones for boaters' sewage dating back to a 1976 declaration covering Lake George and Lake Champlain.
Another request by the state is pending for the section of Lake Erie that lies within New York's jurisdiction.