I love fly fishing!

From the Altamont Enterprise — Thursday, September 21, 2000, pages 3 and 19 (an excerpt)

I love fly fishing!

by Dr. Peter Buttner


For more than fifty years I have been making imitations of many of the insects, minnows and other forms of life that fish feed on in fresh and salt water. It is a singular thrill to catch a fish on an hand-made imitation of life!

Long ago I realized that success in getting the fish to bite depended upon the similarity between what the fish were eating at that time and the appearance of the insect or minnow imitation that I was using as a lure. So, before the first cast I always do a bit of snooping at waterÕs edge: lifting stones and screening bottom muds to find out what insect species are present, who hatched out last night and whatÕs happening now.

Without exception, the activities of all inhabitants of aquatic environments are driven by seasonal rhythms. For example, during late May and early June on most Òhealthy waterwaysÓ that contain fish in our region I would expect to find the nymphs (and perhaps some adults flying over the waterway) of the mayfly species Stenonema and Isonychia.

Usually, in order to support many types of aquatic insects, particularly mayflies and caddis flies, a ÒhealthyÓ waterway must seasonally sustain certain physical and chemical characteristics. Like the minerÕs canary, the presence and condition of some aquatic species can provide a sensitive indication of the overall environmental quality of a waterway and its drainage basin. . .

In the eastern and central states, during late May and early June on most ÒfishyÓ waterways, I use the presence of a combination of such environmental ÒcanariesÓ Ñ the free swimming mayfly nymph Isonychia (bicolor?), the clinging mayfly nymph Stenonema (fuscum?) and several species of caddisflies Ñ to evaluate the general environmental quality of waterways.

Last spring I did a informal sampling of various spots in the Black Creek drainage. With some effort and persistence, I found my ÒcanariesÓ upstream of the Black Creek Marsh but not downstream of the Northeastern Industrial Park (NEIP) and the existing Guilderland bus garage.

When the Schenectady Army Depot, Voorheesvile Area was built, the original Black Creek was relocated and bifurcated by the Army so as to completely enclose the Depot. Some 550 acres of the Former Schenectady Army Depot, Voorheesville Area (FSADVA) are now occupied by the NEIP. Why is the water that leaves the Bus Garage and the NEIP different than that which flows into Black Creek Marsh upstream? Is the water that passes through the NEIP and the bus garage Òhealthy?Ó

IÕll let you decide. Available for public review in the Guilderland Public Library (and on the Internet) are several federal USACE documents that describe the chemistry of samples of the water and stream sediment taken from the Black Creek at various locations within the NEIP. These analyses were conducted by professional laboratories using state-of-the-art equipment and best available technology (BAT). This is a public record for all to examine. These contaminants are leaching from federal Areas of Concern (AOC) that are located, as the maps in the public documents show, within the NEIP portion of the FSADVA.

According to those public records, some of the chemical substances found in the water that leaves the NEIP, passes alongside the Guilderland bus garage (collecting its runoff) and then gradually flows into the TownÕs drinking water supply include:

1,1,2,2-Tetrachloroethane, 1,2-Dichlorobenzene, 1,2-Dichloroethane, 1,3-Dichloropropane, 4,4ÕDDE, 1,4-Dichlorobenzene, 4-Methyl-2-Pentanone, Acetone, Arsenic, Carbon Disulfide, Chloroform, Chlorodibromomethane, Trichloroethene, Methylene Chloride Tetrachloroethene, Toluene, Xylenes, Ethylbenzene

The substances listed above that are now found in Black Creek are related to federal activities that took place in proximity to that waterway during the last 50 years. These substances are intrusive, contaminating and unnatural. They do not belong in a ÒhealthyÓ waterway!

Now some engineer (who probably doesnÕt drink Guilderland=s water) might say that all of those substances are in the environment anyway so why worry. Or the Federal Environmental Protection Agency or the statesÕs Department of Environmental Conservation or some other agency might say that the amounts are so small that they are not a problem: ÒWell within standards.Ó Or it might be said that there is no evidence yet that such substances can have a deleterious effect on mammals or their DNA. etc. etc. etc. . .

Who cares?

We care: the ten local-community volunteer members of the FSADVA federal Restoration Advisory Board (RAB).

ItÕs surprising to us that the community fails to recognize the importance of relocating the Guilderland bus garage; it is obviously contributing its own batch of polluting substances to the Black Creek and your water supply – it should be moved. A comprehensive review of the proposal to build a new bus garage at the present site leads us to expect that the environmental safeguards that will be required by various regulatory agencies will add significantly to the operational cost of the facility. Furthermore, some of the technology that the School District expects to use to protect the Creek from contamination had yet to be designed! ÒLetÔs get it done and get back to the soccer game.Ó

It seems like no one cares? If arguments for an equitable and environmentally-sensitive solution to the Bus Garage problem are being ignored just because of financial considerations then shame on us all!

Some of the RAB members have suggested that we are trying to push a large snowball uphill against the combined weight of: (1) a bunch of narrowly-focused, environmentally-insensitive administrators and politicians; (2) an educational institution that Òtalks the talk of environment and ecologyÓ but when it really gets down to fighting for clean water Òwalks the expedient walkÓ away from controversy; and, (3) a community that appears to be disinterested in protecting and enhancing the quality of the water that most of their families drink.

Taken together it would seem that you have a lot of people who wish that the RAB, and all those contaminating hydrocarbons in Black Creek, would just evaporate.

Where are Guilderland HighÕs future Rachel Carsons, Eugene Odums and Anne Ehrlichs when we need them?

I love fly fishing!

Printed in the June 2001 Dinner Notice