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Ambient Monitoring Program
In 1998, an Amendment Consent Judgment
(ACJ) between Onondaga County, New York
State and Atlantic States Legal Foundation was
signed to resolve a lawsuit filed against
Onondaga County for violations of the Clean
Water Act. The lawsuit alleged that discharges
from the Metropolitan Syracuse Wastewater
Treatment Plant (Metro) and overflows from
the combined sewer system (CSOs) precluded
Onondaga Lake from meeting its designated
best use. The ACJ obligates the County to
undertake a phased program of wastewater
collection and treatment improvements that
will extend though the year 2012, monitor
water quality response, and report annually on
progress towards compliance.
The Ambient Monitoring Program (AMP) is Onondaga County’s comprehensive program to
evaluate the quality of the waterways and track
changes brought about by the improvements to
the wastewater collection and treatment
infrastructure and reductions in watershed
sources of nutrients. As described above, the
ACJ obligates Onondaga County to conduct this
annual monitoring program.
The 2012 Annual Ambient Monitoring Program Sampling Workplan incorporates the Enhanced Tributary Monitoring Program, and changes to the Lake, Tributaries, and Seneca River Water Quality and Biological Monitoring Programs.
The ACJ is designed to improve the water quality of Onondaga Lake and achieve full compliance with state and federal water quality regulations by December 1, 2012. The ACJ specifically includes a listing of over thirty projects to be undertaken over 15 years. Although completion of the entire project is not required until 2012. The ACJ was further amended (4th Stipulation) on November 16, 2009, extending the AMP through 2018.
The ACJ describes the intent of each project and sets time schedules for specific work related to each project to be completed. These milestones relate to such activities as completion of environmental review, start of construction, and commencement of operation.
The projects can be divided into three main categories:
- Improvement and upgrading of the County's main
sewage treatment plant (Metro)
- Eliminating and/or decreasing the effects of the combined sewer overflows on the lake and its tributaries
- A lake and tributary monitoring program designed to
evaluate the effects of the improvement projects on the water quality of the lake and tributary streams.
Amended Consent Judgment
Onondaga Lake is on the road to recovery. Multiple efforts are underway to restore Onondaga Lake, and the lake is responding with greatly improved water quality and habitat conditions. These efforts include major improvements to the wastewater collection and treatment system, reductions in stormwater runoff, and remediation of industrial wastes. For decades, Onondaga County Department of Water Environment Protection has monitored lake conditions. The Ambient Monitoring Program (AMP) provides a scientific basis for answering important questions about the lake.
- How have the remedial efforts affected the lake?
- Is the lake suitable for recreational uses?
- Does the lake support a healthy aquatic community?
The answers to these questions are now evident. Nutrient concentrations are in steep decline, algal blooms have essentially disappeared, and oxygen levels are greatly improved. The lake supports a healthy balance of plants and animals. Interest in the lake as a recreational resource has surged.
2011 Annual Report: Onondaga Lake Ambient Monitoring Program (February 2013)
2011 Annual Report Library
Data from 2011 AMP Annual Report
PRINTABLE FORMAT (PDF): 2011 Annual Report: Onondaga Lake Ambient Monitoring Program (February 2013)
Onondaga Lake Fishery:
2011 Fact Sheet (October 2011)
Through its Ambient Monitoring Program (AMP), WEP is
capturing data that is indispensable to answering
critical questions about the chemical, physical, and
biological nature of Onondaga Lake and its tributaries (Onondaga
Creek, Nine Mile Creek, Harbor Brook, Ley Creek,
Tributary 5A) as well as the Seneca River system.
What is the Ambient Monitoring Program about?
Onondaga Lake Ambient Monitoring Program 1998-2012, Program Summary
This document describes the program
and how the results are used to evaluate the effectiveness of Onondaga County's improvements to wastewater collection and treatment (Dec 2006).
WEP's AMP team releases a buoy to collect data about Onondaga Lake.
Live data from Onondaga Lake.
WEP personnel are constantly checking the state of the
water quality in the lake, the streams flowing into
it, and the Seneca River to assess the health of the
Required by state and federal regulations, the AMP
also measures the effectiveness of a 15-year WEP plan
to improve to the collection and treatment of sewage.
Engineers, scientists, and regulators will use the
data gathered to see if these efforts are restoring
the water's quality and the surrounding habitat. They
use the data, too, to see if further improvements are
needed to meet water quality standards and community
goals for this resource.