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Seneca Lake Guardian: The Eyes, Ears and Voice Fighting for Clean Water

Waterkeeper Alliance, a global movement uniting more than 270 Waterkeeper organizations and affiliates, recently approved a new affiliate, Seneca Lake Guardian. Joseph M Campbell and Yvonne Taylor of Gas Free Seneca are excited to extend their efforts as the Seneca Lake Guardians to protect and preserve Seneca Lake, one of New York's Finger Lakes, by combining their firsthand knowledge of the watershed with an unwavering commitment to the rights of the community.

Shooner at sunset on tranquil Lake Seneca.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

“Waterkeeper Alliance is thrilled to have Seneca Lake Guardian to be the eyes, ears and voice for this vital watershed and community," Waterkeeper Alliance President Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said. “Every community deserves to have swimmable, drinkable and fishable water, and Joseph Campbell and Yvonne Taylor are the right leaders to fight for clean water in the region."

Seneca Lake Guardian will be an advocate for the Seneca Lake watershed and its tributaries, protecting and restoring water quality through community action and enforcement. Campbell and Taylor will work on watershed-related issues from their home base in Watkins Glen, New York.

“Seneca Lake Guardian, a Waterkeeper affiliate's aim, is to provide strong advocacy that will result in an improved quality of life for all citizens whether they rely on it for drinking water or recreation or whether they simply value the lake's continued well-being," Campbell explained.

“Seneca Lake Guardian will have an incredibly important job," Marc Yaggi, executive director of Waterkeeper Alliance, added. “Waterkeeper Affiliates defend their communities against anyone who threatens their right to clean water, from law-breaking polluters to irresponsible government officials. Until our public agencies have the means necessary to protect us from polluters and the will to enforce the law, there will always be a great need for people like Joseph and Yvonne to fight for our right to clean water."

“Gas Free Seneca has, as a small grassroots organization, been successfully keeping Crestwood's misbegotten plans to industrialize the shores of Seneca Lake from coming to fruition for five years," Taylor said. “But the threats to our lake are many and this collaboration will now allow us to fully address those threats and bring the resources of the Waterkeeper Alliance into the fray. Becoming a Waterkeeper affiliate was the perfect evolution for us."

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.

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