Onondaga Lake Superfund (NPL) Sites - News

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Maffei, Schumer want EPA, DEC to assess health risk of burying Onondaga Lake sediment in Camillus

By John Stith/The Post-Standard

April 12, 2010, 2:33PM

Camillus, NY -- U.S. Rep. Dan Maffei and U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer have asked federal and state environmental officials to assess the health risk posed by dumping contaminated sediment from Onondaga Lake in Wastebed 13 off Airport Road in Camillus.

Both Maffei and Schumer acknowledge that the cleanup of the lake must continue, but they want the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Conservation to look closely at dumping the sediment, which contains mercury, PCBs and other contaminants, near residential homes.

In a letter today to EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, they asked her to conduct the assessment to determine the type and quantity of chemicals going Wastebed 13, the potential of the chemicals escaping the disposal site and whether the disposal plan will protect the health of local residents.

“There is no denying that cleaning up Onondaga Lake is of critical importance, but we have to go into the process with our eyes wide open and a complete understanding of the consequences,” Schumer said in a news release accompanying the letter. “Residents have a right to know what’s going to be put in their back yard, and what the consequences are.”

Camillus Ward 2 Town Councilor Mark Kolinski was pleased that Maffei and Schumer have called on federal and state officials to conduct a risk assessment and to look carefully at the chemicals that would be buried in the wastebed..

“I’m just glad to see it. … I think it’s a great first step,” he said.

Last month in a letter to DEC Commissioner Alexander B. Grannis, Assemblyman William A. Barclay called on the DEC to conduct a health risk assessment and urged the agency to look at alternative disposal methods.

DEC Regional Director Ken Lynch said his agency will work with EPA and the state Health Department to respond to the concerns of Camillus residents and their federal representatives.

Lynch said the DEC never requested a human health risk assessment related to the dredging.

"It was done for the lake project overall, and looked at the risk of leaving contaminants in the lake," Lynch said.

The lake cleanup plan calls for some sediment from the lake bottom to be dredged, piped directly to Wastebed 13 and packed in geotextile tubes. Water that drains from the sediment will be treated at the site and treated again at the Onondaga County treatment plant off Hiawatha Boulevard.

The sediment that remains will be buried in Wastebed 13, which is owned by Honeywell International. The company will pay an estimated $451 million to clean up Onondaga Lake.

“There is no denying that cleaning up Onondaga Lake is of critical importance, but we have to go into the process with our eyes wide open and a complete understanding of the consequences,” Schumer said. “Residents have a right to know what’s going to be put in their back yard, and what the consequences are.”

Post-Standard Washington correspondent Mark Weiner contributed to this report.

John Stith can be reached at jstith@syracuse.com or at 251-5718.

Partnership for Onondaga Creek to be Awarded

Posted on April 12th, 2010 by Justin Murphy in Hometown News

The South Side-based Partnership for Onondaga Creek will receive an environmental award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its work improving water quality in Onondaga Creek and Onondaga Lake.

The partnership, the Atlantic States Legal Foundation, the Onondaga Nation and Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney will be honored collectively with an Environmental Quality Award April 24 in New York City. The award is in recognition of their collaboration in replacing a swirler-style sewage treatment place with green infrastructure. The four groups argue that rain gardens, porous pavement and other green infrastructure installations will reduce the cost and environmental impact of treating sewage in the city, and also keep storm water out of the overburdened sewer system.

“It’s really gratifying,” said Aggie Lane, one of the partnership’s leaders. “We hung in there over the long haul. The partnership worked well in coalition with other groups and when we got someone in government who wanted to work with us, it got a lot easier.”

Working together, the four honorees convinced a federal judge to amend a federal clean-up order, allowing them to implement green infrastructure instead of treatment plants like the one on Midland Avenue.

The award nomination form, submitted by the partnership on behalf of the four parties, said, “This unlikely coalition of environmental activists and county government is a remarkable story. It is a lesson in participatory democracy: a rare instance of government asking and receiving help from its informed citizens.”

Lane believes it may be the first time that a federal consent order has been altered to allow for green infrastructure. “I think there are a lot of people watching, so we have to be sure to make this work,” she said.


DEC fact sheet unlikely to ease concerns over plan to bury contaminated lake sediment in Camillus

By John Stith/The Post-Standard

April 09, 2010, 6:47PM

Camillus, NY -- Information released this week by state environmental officials about plans to bury contaminated sediment from the bottom of Onondaga Lake in an old waste disposal site in the town of Camillus isn’t likely to answer concerns raised by residents opposed to the disposal.

The information, a 22-page document released Thursday by the Department of Environmental Conservation through its Community Participation Working Group, is a compilation of information available previously to the public but scattered throughout many documents created during the decades-long lake cleanup effort.

The DEC information is available online atwww.dec.ny.gov/docs/regions_pdf/scafaq.pdf .

DEC spokeswoman Stephanie Harrington said the idea was to gather in one place information on topics raised during recent public forums and questions submitted in written form about the cleanup and disposal plan.

Tom Gdula, co-chairman of townwide citizen group, Camillus Community Coalition, and Town Councilor Mark Kolinski, whose Ward 6 includes the site of Wastebed 13, both called the information “propaganda.”

“There’s nothing new in there,” Gdula said. “It is the same marketing propaganda that does not provide the informed person with any level of comfort that the real concerns for safety and long-term health are being addressed. I don’t know of we’ve moved any further down the road.”

Honeywell International has agreed to clean up Onondaga Lake at an estimated cost of $451 million.

Kolinski criticized the lack of any assessment of health risks posed by the disposal plan. Wastebed 13, off Airport Road, was picked five years ago as the disposal site.

“Back in 2005-2006, there might have been one or two houses there, so I think that’s the reason they didn’t do one back then,” Kolinski said. “But, after all the things that have been dumped in there … it’s just amazing one hasn’t been done since.”

Residents living near Wastebed 13 believe the disposal plan poses environmental and human health risks.

“In my opinion, you can’t put a price tag on human health, especially our unborn children,” Kolinski said. “We can’t take that risk no matter what.” 

John Stith can be reached at jstith@syracuse.com or at 251-5718

Onondaga Lake matters to Native Americans

staff reports 04/06/10

Sacred Waters:

“Water was put here for all of life on Mother Earth. Every drop counts. Every drop has a duty to provide life and if we decide that it is ok to pollute some, we are battling the Natural Laws and no one will prevail,” said Jake Edwards reminding us of the necessity of healing and restoring Onondaga Lake. On Monday, April 19 at 7 pm at Syracuse Stage, 820 East Genesee St., Central New Yorkers can hear the public unveiling of the Onondaga Nation’s “Vision for the Future of Onondaga Lake.” 

“Every region has its special feature. Ours is clean freshwater in abundance,” notes SUNY ESF professor and series organizer Jack Manno. “In the recent past, people took this gift for granted and allowed it to be degraded. Now, we’ve begun to take responsibility for righting that historic wrong. While much progress has been made to date, its now time to consider what true restoration could mean. It’s time to hear the Onondaga Nation’s ideas about what the lake can become once more and how.” 

The main presenters are:

Jake Edwards, Onondaga Nation Chief who works on environmental issues on behalf of his Nation.

Henry Lickers (Seneca, Turtle Clan) is environmental coordinator for the Mohawk Council of Akwasasne and scientific co-chair of the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force. An award-winning biologist, Henry has worked closely with the Onondaga Nation in developing their Vision. 

A panel of community responders will respond to the Onondaga Vision: Onondaga County Executive Joanne Mahoney, SUNY ESF President Neil Murphy; Andrew Maxwell, Sustainability Director for the City of Syracuse and Meredith Perreault of the Onondaga Environmental Institute.

The program is part of the Onondaga Land Rights & Our Common Future series, consisting of 13 events in 2010. It is coordinated by Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation and co-sponsor by 12 major universities. Admission to this event is free. A reception and facilitated small group discussions will follow the presentation. For more information, including the full series schedule, see www.peacecouncil.net/noon or call 472-5478.

Mounds grow as Honeywell gets ready to repair Onondaga Lake shore

Phil Ciaramella, of Lawn-Tech in LaFayette, sprays a hydroseed material onto mounds of dirt between Onondaga Lake and Interstate 690. Seeding the mounds produces a cover for the calcium carbonate deposits

Camillus, NY -- Honeywell International’s $451 million effort to clean up toxic waste from Onondaga Lake has produced a new piece of landscape to intrigue motorists — a row of low, manmade hills that march for a half-mile on the lake side of Interstate 690 on Syracuse’s far west fringe.

The mounds, made mainly from the chalky calcium carbonate industrial waste that AlliedSignal Inc. and its predecessors dumped along the lake shore for most of the 20th century, grew this winter as a Honeywell contractor prepared the nearby lakeshore for remedial work.

They have been covered with soil and gravel. This week, that covering is receiving a coating of hydroseed, a green-tinted mixture of seed and fertilizer. As spring progresses, they’ll sprout with native grasses, flowers and shrubs, said Victoria Streitfeld, speaking for Honeywell, which took over AlliedSignal’s environmental cleanup of the lake and its environs when the companies merged in 1999.

The calcium carbonate came from Waste Bed B, one of a series of sites in Syracuse, Geddes and Camillus where refuse from the “Solvay Process” of making soda ash was dumped.

The material was removed to make way for the third portion of underground wall that Honeywell is installing along the shoreline, Streitfeld said. This barrier is designed to separate contaminated groundwater on one side from Onondaga Lake water on the other.

If the mounds’ humps and lumps seem vaguely familiar, it’s because they were modeled after the glacier-created hills that dot the Central New York landscape, she said. They were designed to provide better views of the lake and to attract wildlife, she said.

Whether they contain any wastes other than calcium carbonate still is being studied, Streitfeld said. Honeywell officials told the state Department of Environmental Conservation in a March 3 memo that it would test the mounds for mercury, metals, semi-volatile and volatile organic compounds and PCBs.

The mounds’ design and possible composition drew concern from Joseph Heath, an attorney for the Onondaga Nation. The Onondagas’ land claim lawsuit against New York State contends that the nation holds title to the lake.

The mounds appear to conflict the Onondagas’ desire to restore the wetlands that rimmed the lake before it became an industrial wasteland, Heath said.

The lack of public involvement in the planning process also is disturbing, Heath said. The attorney said he and his staff did not learn about the plan for the mounds until about three weeks ago, when it was brought up incidentally during a conference call with DEC and federal Environmental Protection Agency officials.

“And so we’re doing things that we may have to undo later on,” Heath said. “And that’s just not good planning. It’s not a good use of anybody’s money.”

Undoing the hills later on is a possibility anyway, according to Diane Carlton, speaking for DEC.

Plans call for the mounds to remain for four or five years while Honeywell completes its remedial work, Carlton said. As the end of that span nears, she said, officials will hold public hearings to discuss whether to flatten the hills, leave them in place or assign them some other fate

Administrative Record Index -Onondaga Lake Site

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Onondaga Lake Partnership Meeting Minutes


Waterfowl Contaminant Study on Onondaga Lake 2009/2010

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Toxic coal-tar cleanup to cost New York $3 billion

February 7, 2010 Times Herald-Record - Related Information

A toxic liquid has been creeping through the soil of cities in the mid-Hudson Valley for more than a century. From the 1800s to the 1950s, manufactured gas plants in places such as Newburgh, Kingston and Poughkeepsie provided light and heat to thousands who walked city streets and lived in city homes.

But an industrial byproduct from those plants — a black or reddish-brown liquid known as coal tar — eventually leaked into the ground through faulty storage tanks or sewage pipes. Over the decades, coal tar trickled beneath our feet until it found places to settle.

Now it pollutes soil and water in the Hudson River, Delaware River and Rondout Creek.

Utility companies that ran manufactured gas plants were compelled to clean up their mess when New York passed stricter environmental laws in 1995 that classified coal tar as hazardous waste. Now those gas and electric groups are cleaning up more than 250 coal-tar pollution sites across the state.

All told, the projects are expected to cost nearly $3 billion, making them the third most expensive environmental cleanup happening in the state. Only removal of PCBs from the Hudson and waste from Onondaga Lake are more expensive.

"The number of remediation projects we've had is in excess of $100 million each year," said Bob Schick, who runs the state Department of Environmental Conservation's environmental remediation division.

One of the most expensive cleanups is in the City of Newburgh, where Central Hudson is spending $27 million to remove coal tar that settled beneath the Hudson River and in soil around Newburgh's sewage treatment plant.

To shed light on coal tar and how it's removed, Central Hudson took the Times Herald-Record for an in-depth look at its Newburgh cleanup site.

From light source to pollution

Methane was produced at Newburgh's manufactured gas plant from 1876 to 1951. The plant was located on a hill, just three blocks west of the Hudson River. Gas was distributed through Newburgh by a network of pipelines that fed the flames of streetlights, heated homes and delivered gas for cooking.

In those days, gas was made by cracking coal with high-pressure water vapor. The plants were sited along waterways so that water could cool the machinery. The process also created byproducts, including coal tar, which were stored in tanks that eventually leaked. It was also disposed of in more careless ways.

"Sometimes there was a pipe that put it (coal tar) directly into the Hudson River," said John J. Borchert, manager of gas and mechanical engineering for Central Hudson, "and boaters would report a sticky substance on their boats."

Coal tar is dangerous because it contains toxic chemicals. They're known as NAPL — non-aqueous phase liquids — and include benzene, a carcinogen, and xylene, which can stunt the growth of fetuses. In the Hudson River, experts estimate that the coal tar's NAPL have killed off roughly 25 percent of plankton and other tiny species that are eaten by fish.

Manufactured gas plants, including the one in Newburgh, began to close in the 1950s during "the great conversion." The first natural gas pipeline was extended into our region, in Tuxedo, during that decade. Natural gas was cheaper and cleaner, making manufactured gas practically obsolete.

As manufactured gas plants closed, their toxic byproducts crept along the bedrock for decades until they found a flat home on which to rest.

Dredging, steel wall and patience

Central Hudson began its Newburgh cleanup in 2007, when it removed old storage tanks and excavated the former manufactured gas plant. But coal tar had already run downhill, beneath the train tracks and Water Street.

Dozens of test wells showed that coal tar settled around Newburgh's sewage treatment plant and in the riverbed, as far as 150 feet past the Hudson's shoreline.

"Because some of these plants operated for decades, the extent of pollution was much greater than anyone anticipated," said Schick, of the DEC.

Cleanup began in earnest during the last week of January, when Central Hudson started installation of a gigantic, underground steel wall along Newburgh's shoreline. The wall, which stretches 450 feet along the shore and 50-60 feet deep, will be buried permanently there to block more coal tar from reaching the river.

"When the coal tar hits the steel sheeting, it will drop to pipes along the bottom," Borchert said. "Then we'll collect it periodically, suck it out and send it to a treatment plant."

It could take decades for the remaining coal tar to hit the barrier, but Borchert said coal tar isn't a threat because it's not near any water supplies.

Starting this month, workers from D.A. Collins Cos. of Mechanicsville will begin spot dredging the Hudson River to remove coal tar that settled there. A boat will carry a GPS-guided claw that will precisely scoop out toxic sediment located anywhere from 2 to 20 feet below the riverbed.

The dredging area will be closed off by temporary walls, silt curtains and absorbent booms built into the river to prevent the coal tar's NAPL from floating away. DEC and Army Corps of Engineers permits require Central Hudson to build the protective barriers by April 30, before fish begin migrating. Dredging will continue through fall or early winter.

All told, 26,000 cubic yards of sediment will be removed.

"Dredge techs will collect cubic foot by cubic foot of sediment and replace it with clean fill," said Wayne Mancroni, senior environmental researcher and technical specialist for Central Hudson.

All the coal tar that's removed will be temporarily transported to a huge, sports dome-type structure that Central Hudson set up near the end of Renwick Street. The white dome constantly circulates fresh air — and for good reason.

Coal tar has a pungent odor when it's first removed: "It smells like super mothballs," Mancroni said.

Coal tar removed from the barrier catch basin and river will be shipped to the ESMI treatment plant in Fort Edward. The cleanup is expected to last two years.

New York Town Says GM Mediators Lack ‘Expertise’

FEBRUARY 8, 2010, Wall Street Journal

The town of Salina, N.Y., is balking at the General Motors bankruptcy estate’s bid to settle $40 million in environmental claims through a mediation process. The town says the panelists appointed to hear arguments “do not appear to have any expertise in the environmental arena or in regulatory matters related to the protection of human health.”

Salina, a town near Syracuse, N.Y., is seeking reimbursement for environmental contamination at three locations: the Onondaga Lake Superfund site, the former town landfill and Lower Ley Creek. GM at one time operated a manufacturing plant near those locations.

The piece of GM that lingers in bankruptcy is seeking to settle several unresolved issues through a dispute-resolution process. Salina, however, questioned if a panel seated to hear a wide variety of disputes is qualified to delve into environmental science.

“Given that the issues involve the health and welfare of the public, as well as developing a manner to protect the environment…it is important to ensure that the parties are in the appropriate forum,” Salina said in court papers.

A spokesman for GM’s bankruptcy estate said it consulted with claimants and other stakeholders when appointing the mediators. “Motors Liquidation is reaching out proactively to make sure the panel is well balanced,” spokesman Steve Blow said.

Salina instead wants its claims heard alongside those made by the state of New York, which is exempt from the dispute-resolution process. The delay would allow state and federal regulators to complete testing that is needed to “fully evaluate” GM’s liability, Salina said.


Onondaga Lake Ambient Monitoring Program 1998—2012 - Program Summary

January 31, 2010

Onondaga County is required by State and Federal regulations to monitor Onondaga Lake and its tributary streams. The January 1998 Amended Consent Judgment required the County’s Department of Water Environment Protection (DWEP) to develop and implement a program to measure water quality conditions and assess progress towards compliance with state and federal standards. Read More ......

For more information on the Onondaga Lake Cleanup:





VALENTINO, Benjamin1, HEENAN, Jeffrey2, and VALENTINO, David W.1, (1) Department of Earth Sciences, State University of New York at Oswego, Oswego, NY 13126, bvalenti@oswego.edu, (2) Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ 07102

A high-resolution magnetic field strength survey was completed on Onondaga Lake, NY (~18 sq km), to identify geologic and search for anthropogenic sources for anomalies. The survey was completed using an Overhauser gradiometer attached to an inflatable motorboat. Onondaga Lake was surveyed using a zig-zag track across the width and length, and at an average speed o f 21 km/hr that resulted in readings with 1.2 m spacing. Measurements were made at more than 32,400 locations in less than 3 hours, with the bottom sensor providing total magnetic field strength (nT) and both sensors providing the vertical gradient (nT/m). The total field strength data was examined for diurnal variation. Subtraction of the earth’s average magnetic field for the center of Onondaga Lake produced the magnetic anomaly data set that was used for mapping. There is a higher to lower magnetic anomaly gradient from northwest to the southeast ends of the lake (~7.5 km). However, there are also small-scale (up to several 100 meters wide) variations in the overall gradient. The lake-scale horizontal gradient is most likely due to the geology beneath Onondaga Lake. Isolated and relatively small anomalies, deviate from the regional magnetic gradient by 500 to >2000 nT. These anomalies are most likely due to man-made objects that have a strong influence on the local total magnetic field such as sunken boats or pieces of boats, anchors, or other discarded or lost materials containing metal. In 1955 a military jet crashed into Onondaga Lake and the main wreckage was never salvaged. It is interesting that one of the larger isolated anomalies closely corresponds to the crash location.

Long Overdue Habitat Restoration At Onondaga Lake

From ecopolitics daily - Submitted by Andrea Muraskin on Fri, 2010-01-15 17:46.

Onondaga Lake, described as one of the most polluted lakes in the country, used to be a thriving vacation spot. Over the course of its 200-year history of settlement the 4.6-mile lake gradually became a dumping site for municipal sewage and industrial wastes.

Onondaga LakeA cleanup has been ongoing since the 1970s and the site was given a Superfund designation in 1994. But now, for the first time, the Department of Environmental Conservation is planning to restore plant and animal habitats and promote recreation along the Southern shore, following a four-year dredging project, the Syracuse Post-Standard reports.

The DEC is soliciting public comments on a draft plan to dredge 2.6 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment and a draft habitat restoration plan. You can also submit your comments via email to Donald Hesler at djhesler@gw.dec.state.ny.us byFebruary 16th.  

Onondaga Lake has a troubled past. For years, the city of Syracuse flushed sewage directly into the lake, finally building the Metro sewage treatment plant on the South Shore in 1960. From the 1880s to the 1940s, Solvay Process Company produced soda ash (calcium carbonate) on the Western Shore, depositing millions of gallons of salty wastes into the water each day according to the DEC.  Allied Chemical and Dye Company produced chlorine from 1946 to its closure in 1977, discharging a mercury byproduct into Onondaga. Mud overflows and PCBs have also been concerns.

Today, water quality and lake health are improving as a result of upgrades at the Metro plant and salinity has dropped four-fold since the closure of the Allied soda ash factory in 1986. Some fish species are considered suitable for consumption, but swimming is still banned. According to the non-profit Onondaga Lake Partnership, scientists estimate that 7 million cubic yards of lake sediments remain contaminated with mercury, and the metal is still found in fish. 

The dredging and habitat restoration to take place are part of Honeywell International (formerly Allied Chemical)'s $451 million cleanup plan, the result of a 2006 settlement with the state. Participants at Thursday's meeting will be divided into four groups depending on their area of interest: the waste bed in Camillus where the sediment will be deposited; fishing and lake access; habitat to promote plants, wetlands and recreation, and habitat to promote wildlife and birds. 

Public comment on lake clean up

By: Web Staff - Friday, January 15, 2010 -The Post-Standard

ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. -- There is no question that Onondaga Lake must be cleaned up, but just what is it going to look like when it's done?

The DEC plans to start dredging the lake in 2012. Sediment from the bottom will be removed, but there is some question as to what will be done with it and what happens to the lake after?

The DEC held a public meeting Thursday night to hear thoughts on things like habitat restoration for fish and wildlife.

"They want to see what the lake is going to look like once it is clean and we want to hear what they would like it to be, what are their proposed uses in the future of the lake and see if we can accommodate, as part of the cleanup plan, fostering those future uses in and around the lake," said Ken Lynch, District 7 Regional Director for DEC.

The DEC says it will take the comments into consideration and hopes to have a design plan in place for the lake by next year.

How to remake Onondaga Lake's shore? State DEC seeks public input on plan

By Tim Knauss / The Post-Standard January 13, 2010, 6:00AM

Syracuse, NY - Got a favorite fish you’d like to cast for? Looking for a new place to watch birds?

Now is your chance to make suggestions about the vegetation, wildlife, recreation areas and other elements of a restored shoreline along Onondaga Lake.

For the first time in decades, lake planners are getting ready to make the southern shore of the lake into a healthy habitat where plants, wildlife and even people would want to hang out.

It’ll be years before that happens — first much of the sediment along the lake shore has to be dredged or capped — but planning for habitat restoration is under way.

Now is your chance to make suggestions.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation will solicit public comments on a draft habitat restoration plan during a 5 p.m. meeting Thursday at the Art and Home Center at the state fairgrounds in Geddes.

During the meeting, DEC officials also will accept comments on a draft plan to bury as much as 2.6 million cubic yards of dredged sediment at a lined 160-acre site known as Allied Waste Bed 13 in Camillus.

Both initiatives are part of Honeywell International’s $451 million plan to clean up pollution of the lake, which stems from a 2006 settlement with the state. Elements of the complex plan are being evaluated in stages before DEC signs off on the details.

Dredging is expected to begin in 2012 and continue through 2016.

At about 6 p.m. during Thursday’s meeting, DEC officials will organize participants into four group discussions depending on their area of interest: the sediment consolidation area in Camillus; habitat to promote fishing and lake access; habitat to promote plants, wetlands and recreation; and habitat to promote wildlife and birds.

“This is a new type of forum that we’re doing,” said Diane Carlton, speaking for DEC. “We’re trying to get the community more involved, because the habitat plan is one of the key parts of the lake cleanup that people are really interested in.”

Comments from each group will considered for inclusion in the final draft of the habitat plan, Carlton said.

People unable to attend the meeting can send written comments by Feb. 16 on the habitat plan to Donald Hesler at djhesler@gw.dec.state.ny.us.

Comments on the sediment consolidation area should be sent by Jan. 31 to Timothy Larson at tjlarson@gw.dec.state.ny.us.

Comments on either subject can also be addressed to the appropriate person at NYSDEC, 625 Broadway, 12th floor, Albany, 12233.

The Community Participation Working Group, which was established in August to facilitate public input in the lake remediation plans, will help collect additional comments from the public at its meeting Feb. 4, said Dereth Glance, who chairs the group. The meeting is set for 4 p.m. at the Art and Home Center.

Courthouse News Service - Honeywell International Inc., Plaintiff,v.Exxon Mobil Corporation,Defendant. Read More...
January 4, 2010 - United States District Court

Federal judge approves Onondaga County using green technology to reduce Onondaga Lake pollution

By Tim Knauss / The Post-Standard - November 16, 2009

lake image

Onondaga County's plan to use trees, vegetated roofs, rain gardens, permeable pavement and rain barrels - instead of three new sewage treatment plants - to reduce sewer overflows polluting tributaries of Onondaga Lake was approved Monday by U.S. District Judge Frederick Scullin. In this file photo from August 2009, the sun rises over the lake.

Onondaga County got the final go-ahead Monday to scrap plans for three new sewage plants — including one in Armory Square — and instead reduce sewer overflows with trees, vegetated roofs, rain gardens, permeable pavement and rain barrels.

U.S. District Judge Frederick Scullin
U.S. District Judge
Frederick Scullin

U.S. District Judge Frederick Scullin on Monday signed a new consent order between U.S. District Judge Frederick Scullinthe county, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Atlantic States Legal Foundation, a nonprofit group that sued the county in 1988 to stop its pollution of Onondaga Lake.

The new agreement replaces a court order that required the county to build a series of sewage plants along tributaries of the lake. The parties to the lawsuit — along with environmentalists and neighborhood activists who opposed building sewage plants — hailed the new consent order as a breakthrough that could change the face of Syracuse.

“Just imagine half a million more trees in our city,” said Joseph Heath, an attorney representing the Onondaga Nation, who helped hammer out the agreement.

DEC officials have said Onondaga County will likely set an example for other New York communities in how to use “green infrastructure” to handle urban runoff.

County Executive Joanie Mahoney laid the groundwork in 2008 when, just three weeks after taking office, she halted plans for a controversial $128 million sewage plant in Armory Square, where site work had already begun. Mahoney, the DEC and Atlantic States then sought permission from Scullin to hammer out a deal that would emphasize green measures.

Mahoney said she hopes the new plan will revitalize the community by cleaning its waterways in environmentally friendly ways.

“This is truly changing the prospects for Syracuse and Central New York,’’ Mahoney said. “And it’s probably going to be among the biggest accomplishments that I’ll have in this job, to get the federal court to change the direction we’re in.’’

Instead of a sewage plant along Onondaga Creek in Armory Square, the county will build a 3.7 million-gallon underground storage tank there to hold sewer overflows until they can be processed at the county’s Metro sewage treatment plant. The Armory Square tank will be installed by December 2013. Two additional storage tanks will be built along Harbor Brook, also by 2013.

Through a combination of storage tanks, new sewers and green infrastructure, the county is expected to prevent at least 95 percent of storm runoff from reaching waterways by 2018. The sewage system now captures about 85 percent each year, or 400 million gallons less.

The new court order gives the county until 2011 — roughly three extra years — to demonstrate its ability to restrict phosphorous emissions into Onondaga Lake. The order also calls for new scientific studies examining phosphorous in the lake.