Finger Lakes Water Chemistry

protection against acid rain

Early one Friday morning Pam and I joined a “James Potorti Memorial Gorge Walk” through Buttermilk Falls State Park where we learned interesting facts connected to one of my most successful photographs, “Summer Dream: Buttermilk Falls.”

Click me for “Summer Dream, Buttermilk Falls” in my Fine Art Gallery.

Low Flow

Presented here is the original photograph from July 2004 and an second version, produced July 2018. Both were produced at a low flow after many days without rainfall. The first learned fact is a significant water source for Buttermilk Creek and all the Finger Lakes gorge creeks, is ground water percolating through the sedimentary rocks cut through by the running water. The beautiful fall of water seen here is possible because the creeks flow through periods of drought, a lower flow creating these gentle cascades.

Click either photograph for a larger view.

“Summer Dream, Buttermilk Falls -2004”


Secondly, because Finger Lakes sedimentary rock formed beneath warm, shallow seas 400 million years ago, water percolating trough the stone acquires soluble carbonate (calcium carbonate, Ca CO 3), an chemical imparting basic (as opposed to acidic) properties to the water. This characteristic buffers the water protecting us in the Finger Lakes from the effects of acid rain. When the pH of rainwater falling on the Finger Lakes is measured, it is acidic, falling below 5 on the scale. pH is a measure of reactive hydrogen in water, the more hydrogen the more acidic. Neutral pH is a 7. The water flowing in Buttermilk Creek is consistently around 8, in the basic side of the scale.

“Summer Dream, Buttermilk Falls – 2018”

James Potorti was a native of Ithaca who perished at 52 years of age in New York City on September 11, 2001 were he worked on the 96th floor of 1 World Trade Center.

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