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Onondaga Lake Issues

Efforts to restore Onondaga Lake are multifaceted.  They involve addressing municipal wastewater inputs to the lake, industrial contaminants in the lake bottom and in adjacent upland sites, and stormwater runoff to the lake and its tributaries. The Office of Environment is involved, either directly or indirectly, in all three aspects of lake restoration efforts.

Onondaga Lake Partnership

In 1999 Congressman Walsh introduced legislation to replace the Onondaga Lake Management Conference with a new Onondaga Lake Partnership (OLP) under the direction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  The OLP was established to promote cooperation among the parties managing the environmental issues of Onondaga Lake and its watershed, and has coordinated the development and implementation of projects to restore, conserve, and manage Onondaga Lake.

The Office of Environment has served as the County’s representative on the OLP’s Projects and Executive Committees. Recent initiatives, aimed at broadening Onondaga Lake stakeholder participation and involvement in lake revitalization efforts, are expected to lead to the establishment of a new entity to supersede the OLP. The Office of Environment is participating in those discussions on behalf of the County.

Onondaga Lake Superfund Site

Onondaga Lake was placed on the national list of Superfund sites in the mid-1990s. The site comprises the Lake itself, its tributaries, and the upland hazardous waste sites that have contributed or are contributing contamination to the Lake (sub-sites). Allied-Signal was sued by the State of New York in 1989 under the federal Superfund law. The State alleged that Allied-Signal had polluted Onondaga Lake with industrial wastes and was responsible for the clean-up of the resulting contamination and the restoration of damaged natural resources. Allied-Signal then sued the County in 1994, alleging that discharges from Metro and the related sewer collection system contributed to the contamination of the Lake that the State had alleged was Allied-Signal’s responsibility. Onondaga County has also been named by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a Potentially Responsible Party (PRP) with respect to the Onondaga Lake Superfund Site.

The Office of Environment coordinates the involvement of the County Departments of Law, Health and Water Environment Protection, as well as an external team of attorneys, engineers and scientists in an effort to address issues pertaining to the County’s status as a PRP. In 2004, due in large part to the efforts of this team of County and external experts, Honeywell (formerly Allied-Signal) and the County entered into a Settlement Agreement. The settlement between the County and Honeywell, in addition to protecting the County from tens of millions of dollars of potential lake cleanup liability, preserves the County’s right to review and provide comments to Honeywell and the State on aspects of Honeywell’s studies and proposals.

FOCUS Report on Onondaga Lake

Over the years various efforts have been aimed at acquiring people’s thoughts, ideas and perspectives on how to reconnect with Onondaga Lake and its environs, and to reintegrate the Lake into the fabric of the community. This longing to reconnect with Onondaga Lake will only grow as on-going initiatives to remediate and restore the Lake, its tributaries and the surrounding lakeshore are completed.

It was the goal of the County Executive to capture all of the hopes and good ideas that have been identified through these earlier exercises, distill them into an orderly suite of practical projects, programs and activities that can be systematically undertaken to ensure that the community’s reconnection with Onondaga Lake is realized. To this end in 2012 the County entered into a contract with FOCUS Greater Syracuse to assist the County in an endeavor to:

  • Identify and collaborate with key community stakeholders and government officials
  • Review the existing record of conceptual projects, programs and activities
  • Determine what will be needed to turn viable concepts into reality
  • Collaborate to provide a blueprint on how to proceed

The County Office of Environment was responsible for overseeing the work carried out under this contract with FOCUS. The report, which should be viewed as a living document, can be viewed at: http://www.ongov.net/documents/FOCUSonOnondagaLake.pdf

Amended Consent Judgment

For detailed information on the Onondaga Lake Amended Consent Judgment, including the County’s nationally recognized Save the Rain program, see the County Department of Water Environment Protection’s web page at: http://www.ongov.net/wep/index.html

 

 
 
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