The manure runoff impacting Salmon Creek and Cayuga Lake has been “significantly diminished,” according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The DEC and Tompkins County Health Department continue to respond to the spill, which began Thursday at Sunnyside Farms. The farm is based in Scipio Center in Cayuga County.

The DEC said it is monitoring the discharge and will continue to do so until it has stopped. In the meantime, local officials say to avoid contact with the waters in Salmon Creek or on Cayuga Lake’s shore near the Salmon Creek inlet.

At about 4:45 a.m. Thursday, a staff member at Sunnyside Farms found a manure release during a routine inspection, according to a statement from farm owners Neil and Greg Rejman.

The issue was related to a field drain intersecting with one of the farm’s satellite manure storage structures, the owners said, and it has been halted and manure from the impacted storage structure was injection applied to selected farm fields with the appropriate oversight.

“The need for emergency field application, along with the rapidly warming weather this weekend, resulted in water from the rapid snowmelt mixing with the freshly applied manure, allowing some of it to leave several fields that flow toward Salmon Creek,” the owners said.

Sunnyside Farm owners said their farm typically does not apply liquid manure during winter months, so the land application was an unusual event prompted by the manure storage structure issues.

“The farm crew, joined by other local farm staff, has been working around the clock for several days to minimize the impacts of this situation,” the owners said.

Some of the manure runoff did reach Cayuga Lake, the DEC said, but it is not threatening municipal water supplies. Potential impacts to Owasco Lake have also been avoided.

The exact amount of manure that was discharged is not been determined yet, according to the DEC.

Frank Kruppa, director of the Tompkins County Health Department, said the health department is urging people to avoid direct contact with the contaminated water, specifically with waters in Salmon Creek or on Cayuga Lake’s shore near the Salmon Creek inlet.

Ingesting the water could cause gastrointestinal issues, and contact could cause rashes, Kruppa said.

“It’s a good idea to stay away from the contaminated waters until the DEC can stop the spill and allow time for the decontamination to clear,” Kruppa said.

DEC is investigating the cause of the manure spill.

Tompkins County is advising anyone on a beach well or using lake water in that area to avoid consumption until more information is available. Residents that drink water from Southern Cayuga Lake Inter-municipal Water Commission (SCLIWC or Bolton Point) should not be affected. Information on how to disinfect contaminated water can be found on the Tompkins County website:  http://www.tompkinscountyny.gov/health/eh/water/flood.

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at koconnor@ithacavoice.com and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.