U.S. Water News Online
TROY, N.Y. -- Adirondack lakes affected by acid rain are
showing some signs of improvement, according to a recently-released
report by Rensselaer Polyte chnic Institute.
``In about half of the 30 lakes under study, an increase in the pH
has been observed, a sign that acidic levels are decreasing,'' Darrin
Fresh Water Institute Director Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer said.
Levels of nitrogen influenced by nitric oxide, a primary source of
acid rain, have decreased moderately in 18 of the 30 lakes monitored
from 1994 to 2000, according to the study. However, some of the lakes
in Herkimer and Hamilton counties have shown no signs of improvement.
Moss Lake, the least acidic, improved from 6.39 in 1994 to 6.80 in
2000. While the most acidic lake of the 18 studied, Loon Hollow,
improved from 4.67 to 4.76. The pH scale, which measures acidity,
ranges from 0 (the most acidic) to 14 with 7 being neutral.
There was also an overall reduction of sulfuric acid, another main
contributor to acid rain that comes from industry pollutants, the
The findings were greeted cautiously by the Adirondack Council and
other environmental groups. The council said the lakes had not been
studied long enough to determine the long-term trends on acid rain or
Council director John Sheehan likened the study to taking 10
years' worth of temperatures and predicting an ice age was on the
way. ``We're not saying that it's wrong, but the data the institute
has is not useful in drawing long-term conclusions,'' he said.
Pollutants are carried east on prevailing winds from Midwestern
plant smokestacks, then mix with water vapor in clouds to generate
acid rain over the Adirondacks. Legislation being considered in
Washington would reduce sulfur dioxide coming from power plants
nationwide by another half, and reduce nitrogen oxide by 70 percent.
Researchers at RPI, who said more study is needed, have been
awarded a $2.36 million grant from the Environmental Protection
Agency to continue their work.
``Recovery doesn't happen overnight,'' said Charles Boylen,
professor of biology and associate director of the Darrin Fresh Water
Institute by Lake George. ``One of the reasons we need long-term data
is that other factors can come into play. More or less rainfall in a
year, for instance, can lead to a temporary shift in acid-rain
levels. You need to track specific data over 10 to 15 years.''
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