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Plan to Grant Waiver for Using Farm Pond as Swimming Pond at Autumn’s Gate Summer Camp

Introduction

Autumn’s Gate proposes using a 0.55-acre farm pond, holding approximately 700,000 gallons, as a swimming pond during our summer camp season. Aware that this pond is smaller than the standard minimum size of 1 acre, we are seeking a waiver from the New York State Niagara County Department of Health. Detailed documentation regarding safety, staffing, equipment, and training requirements, as mandated by the DOH for summer camps, will be provided separately, as it extends beyond the scope of this waiver request. This plan outlines our comprehensive approach to ensuring the pond meets all necessary water quality, dilution, environmental, health, and legal standards.

Water Quality Management

Water Dilution: Existing pond water will be diluted with 10,000 gallons of well water (if available) or potable city water daily. The documentation provided by the Department of Health recommends 100 gallons of diluted water be added daily, for each person entering the pond. Autumn’s Gate will host no more that 50 campers per camp day. Autumn’s Gate hosts camp Monday through Friday, making the recommended amount of diluted water needed 5,000 gallons per day, or 25,000 gallons per “camper week”. To ensure we exceed all basic requirements, we intend to add 10,000 gallons of diluted water, Monday through Sunday, for a total of 70,000 gallons per week. This exceeds DOH requirements for dilution of water by 136%. 

Weekly Testing: Water quality tests will be conducted weekly to monitor pH levels, bacterial content, and water clarity. These tests will ensure that the pond consistently meets health and safety standards.

Natural Federally Classified Wetlands Filtration: The pond is strategically positioned downstream from federally classified wetlands. These wetlands serve as a natural filtration system for both ground and surface water. The vegetation and soil within these wetlands effectively filter out pollutants and contaminants, significantly reducing the risk of harmful substances entering the pond. This natural filtration process ensures that rain and groundwater are cleaner before they reach the pond, enhancing overall water quality. Additionally, the wetlands contribute to water dilution, which can help maintain a higher water quality standard and mitigate the need for pond closure during periods of heavy rainfall. This dual benefit highlights the importance of preserving and utilizing wetlands for environmental protection and water management.

Circulation Pumps: Six 4,500 GPH pumps with 3 separate intake bays will be strategically placed to create a continuous cyclical current and to skim all debris floating on the surface. This system is designed to foster additional aerobic bacteria filtration, which plays a crucial role in maintaining water quality. By preventing stratification of water, it ensures a uniform temperature and oxygen distribution throughout the system. Additionally, the circulation prevents floating organic matter from sinking, thereby reducing the amount of organic material that needs to be broken down by the system later. This not only keeps the water cleaner but also enhances the overall efficiency of the filtration process.

Bog Filter and UV Exposure: A flow rate of 8,000 GPH will be directed to a bog filter situated beneath a 150-foot-long, 4-foot-wide river, ensuring a continuous and steady flow. Bog filters are designed to enhance the surface area for aerobic bacteria, allowing these beneficial microorganisms to thrive and effectively filter out unwanted bacteria and other impurities, thereby significantly improving water clarity. Of this total flow, 4,500 GPH will be pumped through the filter media (in this case, a pattern of large to increasingly smaller stones), which will eventually deliver the filtered water to the riverbed. Bog filters are particularly known for their efficiency in removing excess nutrients from pond water, preventing algal blooms and other water quality issues. The rocks within the bog filter provide ample surface area for nitrifying bacteria to colonize, which is crucial for the biological filtration process. An additional 4,500 GPH will flow over the river’s surface, exposing the water to UV light. During the UV water disinfection process, as water passes through the UV system, living organisms—like algae, bacteria, and pathogens—are exposed to ultraviolet light. This light disrupts their DNA/RNA, rendering them unable to function or reproduce, and effectively neutralizing them. This dual approach not only exposes the water to UV sunlight for disinfection but also helps to filter out debris and promote additional aerobic bacterial filtration, thereby ensuring a healthier and clearer aquatic environment. This setup combines mechanical, biological, and UV filtration to help maintain water quality.

Manual Maintenance and Upkeep: Regular maintenance of plants, grass, and hardscapes, along with the manual removal of surface debris from the pond, is crucial for maintaining high water quality and ensuring the pond remains safe for campers. Debris such as leaves, sticks, and other organic material will be skimmed from the surface to prevent it from sinking and disrupting the natural filtration process, which is vital for the health of the aquatic ecosystem. The pond will be routinely inspected for safety hazards or signs of bacterial or algae growth, with any issues addressed immediately to ensure water safety and quality. This includes testing the water for contaminants and monitoring the presence of beneficial microorganisms. The grass surrounding the pond will be kept short to minimize habitat for pests, trees and plants will be properly maintained or removed to prevent overgrowth, and the shores will be raked to remove seaweeds and other unwanted aquatic plants that could hinder recreational activities or ecological balance. Additionally, signage will be placed around the pond to educate campers on the importance of maintaining a clean and safe environment, encouraging them to participate in the upkeep efforts.

Conclusion

By implementing these comprehensive measures, Autumn’s Gate aims to ensure the pond is safe, environmentally friendly, and compliant with all health and legal standards. We have put in place rigorous protocols and systems to regularly monitor water quality, manage waste, and preserve the ecosystem around the pond. These steps are designed to protect both the campers and the natural environment, providing a harmonious balance between recreational use and ecological stewardship.

We are confident that these robust systems will justify the waiver to use the farm pond as a swimming area for our summer camp. Our water safety team will conduct continuous assessments and maintenance to ensure the highest standards of safety and cleanliness are met. Our goal is to offer campers a fun and safe aquatic experience while preserving the natural beauty and health of our pond, allowing them to connect with nature in a meaningful and enjoyable way.

Thank you for your consideration. We remain committed to making a positive environmental impact and promoting the responsible use of natural resources. We believe that by fostering a deeper appreciation for nature among our campers, we can contribute to long-term environmental sustainability. For further information or clarification, please feel free to contact us. We would be happy to provide additional details or answer any questions you may have.

We look forward to a favorable response and a successful summer camp season, where the joys of swimming and outdoor activities can be enjoyed in a safe and well-maintained environment.

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