NPR Interview

Onondaga Lake Cleanup

Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY) Saturday April/21/2012
Marlin, a big, hungry, bad boy of a dredge, has arrived on the shores of Onondaga Lake and will soon be taking huge gulps of the lake’s heavily polluted bottom.The arrival of the giant mining barge marks the beginning of the final and biggest phase of the Onondaga Lake cleanup project by Honeywell International Inc., which is responsible for removing decades of industrial waste, including mercury, dumped into the lake by its predecessors, the Solvay Process and Allied Chemical companies.For the next four years, three hydraulic dredges will suck a total of 2 million cubic yards of contaminated muck — enough to fill about 625 Olympic-sized swimming pools — from the lake bottom. The muck will be pumped four miles away through a double-walled pipe into heavy-duty plastic tubes off Airport Road, in Camillus — land once used by Allied as a landfill.At 40 feet wide and 104 feet long, Marlin is the biggest of the three dredges being supplied by Sevenson Environmental Services Inc., and it will do most of the heavy lifting. Built in Louisiana by Dredge Supply Co. specifically for the Onondaga Lake cleanup, it is so big that the company had to ship it in pieces this week on 11 flat-bed trucks.For the next couple of weeks, workers will assemble the pieces with the help of a giant crane on a gravel-lined hunk of land between the lake and Interstate 690 in Geddes.The crane will lift the dredge into the lake, where workers will run a series of tests on its sophisticated electronic and mechanical equipment and on the four-mile pipeline before the dredging begins in the summer. Once the dredging starts, it will continue 24 hours a day, stopping only for winter, according to Honeywell.Operators will control the dredge using GPS and automated control systems from a pilot house atop the dredge.Marlin — the name that Dredge Supply gives to this class of deep-drilling, diesel-powered dredges — is one odd-looking contraption. It’s a big barge loaded with pumps, motors and piping.The business end of the dredge is something that cannot be seen above the water. It’s a cutter, a drill bit about 3 feet wide with a lot of mean-looking steel teeth that will plow into the lake bottom, breaking up the soil containing the waste.Though the model is capable of drilling to a depth of 150 feet, Marlin’s cutter will not have to go nearly as deep. The deepest part of the lake is 63 feet, and the average depth of the area to be dredged is 5.7 feet, according to Honeywell.The loosened material will be vacuumed into a pipe attached to the dredge and pumped to the plastic-lined disposal site, called a “sediment consolidation area,” in Camillus through piping that winds its way through non-residential areas.Honeywell describes the process as a “closed system” because at no time will the polluted material sucked from the lake be exposed to the open environment. Once the lake cleanup is complete, an additional high-strength liner will be placed over the plastic tubes. Above the liner, layers of clean soil will be added and vegetation will be planted on top, according to the company.Pollutants will be removed from the water that drains out of the heavy plastic tubing at a treatment facility built for Honeywell off Gere Lock Road. The water then will be sent to Onondaga County’s sewage treatment plant off Hiawatha Boulevard for additional treatment before being pumped back into Onondaga Lake, said Victoria Streitfeld, who speaks for Honeywell.The most-contaminated materials removed from the sediment will be brought to an off-site treatment facility and disposed of at a permitted hazardous-waste facility.The two smaller hydraulic dredges will arrive at the lake next month and will be used in areas where Marlin cannot fit, such as some of the shallower areas of the lake.Honeywell said the dredging will clean up the areas with the most highly concentrated pollution, all of it along the western and southern shores of the lake. The 215 acres of dredged lake bottom and 235 additional acres of less-contaminated lake bottom will be capped with tons of gravel and sand, the company said.The state Department of Environmental Conservation, which approved the company’s cleanup plan, said the capping will prevent erosion, isolate any remaining pollutants and provide a habitat for plants, animals and fish.Solvay Process Co. and its successor, Allied Chemical, dumped mercury, benzene and other chemicals into the lake through much of the 1900s — helping to end, for a time, fishing because of the health dangers.Their successor, Allied Signal Inc., closed its soda ash production facility in Solvay in 1986 and demolished its buildings. Allied merged with Honeywell in 1999 and agreed in 2006 to a federal court decree requiring the company to conduct one of the largest environmental cleanups in state history.The company is spending about $451 million on the cleanup. Most of the work has focused on eliminating ongoing sources of contamination from upland areas associated with its predecessors’ operations, including the former Linden Chemical and Plastics plant off Bridge Street, in Solvay.Onondaga County is spending $600 million to upgrade its sewage treatment plant on the lake’s southern shore and to prevent untreated sewage from flowing into the lake during major rainstorms.The changes have improved water quality in the lake. Phosphorus, ammonia and other major pollutants have decreased substantially, according to the DEC. And there are more than 56 species of fish in Onondaga Lake, a big increase from the nine to 12 species found in the lake during the 1970s, the department said.Fishing was banned on the lake in 1970, but the lake was reopened to catch-and-release fishing in 1986.Contact Rick Moriarty at or (315) 470-3148.See a video of workers putting the giant dredge together at

Everywhere A Sign: How About Info?

The Post Standard — March 22, 2012

By: Dick Case, Post Standard Columnist

(Entering Onondaga Lake Watershed sign) stands in the 900 block of Westcott Street in Syracuse. It is one of seven put up in the city.

Onondaga Lake is a little like the main character in that play “The Man Who Came To Dinner.” In some ways, he’s an unwelcome guest but one we’ve learned to live with.

The lake is but 4.6 miles long and a mile wide. A mere puddle among lakes, but surely one of the most polluted, thanks to years of municipal and industrial waste dumping. Onondaga County and Honeywell are hard at work on a cleanup. Dredging of the lake is scheduled to start this spring or summer.

Meanwhile, the Onondaga Lake Partnership, set up in 2000 to promote cooperation among those managing environmental issues of the lake’s watershed, wants residents to recognize that their actions in and around the watershed have an impact on the lake. That’s why we’re seeing signs appearing around Syracuse, and soon in Onondaga County, advising this: “Entering Onondaga Lake Watershed.” Truth is, we’re already there.

Correct. The lake has a drainage basin — i.e., watershed — of 285 square miles, covering all of Syracuse and much of Onondaga County, according to the partnership. A member of the group says the signs cost roughly $200 each and the locations were selected based on entry points into the watershed.

“Budget constraints didn’t allow for a comprehensive posting of signs throughout the city, so some concessions on locations were made,” member B.J. Adigun, explained.

The lake partnership, which is primarily a county group, is picking up the tab for the signs. Seven are up in the city, seven more will be placed around the county.

Our man David Lassman took a picture of the watershed sign in the 900 block of Westcott Street. We have reports of other signs near Le Moyne College and at Scottholm Bouldevard and East Genesee Street.

Are the watershed signs one too many for Syracuse’s visual environment? Close. These markers are out there competing for attention with the Erie Canal Corridor signs and the City of Syracuse markers put up by our last mayor (Matt Driscoll) proclaiming this as the “Emerald City,” to trumpet the city’s “green” efforts.

Enough, already. I also think the lake partnership folks need to follow up the signs with information on what citizens can do to lessen our impact on Onondaga Lake.

‘Patently Syracuse’

Ty Marshal, the entrepreneur who brought us the resurrected Cardiff Giant a while back, is back on the exhibit scene with a new show, this time at the Gallery of the Tech Garden at 235 Harrison St., where he’s in charge of shows. It’s called “Patently Syracuse.”

Ty describes the exhibit — on display through April 19 — as a “visual exploration of inventions, designs and innovations created in Central New York.”

Ty has the help of Alan Rothschild, of Rothschild Petersen Patent Model Museum, and the Onondaga Historical Association. Alan is a world-class collector of patent models (more than 4,000) which are on display at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and Euro Disney in Paris.

Curator of the exhibit is Jake LaManna, co-founder of Evolution Art Studio.

Inventions on view include: an 1842 patent for “improvements in salt works,” by Calvin Guiteau; a cider press invented by Nathan Chapin (1851); an “improved rocking chair,” produced by Robert Chauncey. Chauncey described it as “kept in motion by occupant of the chair,” and a “beer jetter.”

Ty says the jetter is described as “a machine which eliminates air from the headspace of the container before sealing. The object of the invention is to provide a method of directing inert gas into an open top can to avoided excessive foaming and waste of beer.”

Meaning no head?

The exhibit will be officially opened 5 to 7 p.m. tonight at the Tech Garden Gallery.


Gibb Webb, a student of Onondaga Valley history, has a question. He’s trying to figure out the businesses that occupied the intersection of South Salina Street and Seneca Turnpike in the lake ’60s and early ’70s. Helpers may call Gibb at 492-1263

Instead of Adding to Sprawl, Developer Plans Homes in the City

The Post Standard — August 4, 2011


By: Maureen Nolan, Staff Writer

A businessman who made a name developing apartments and condominiums in downtown Syracuse wants for the first time to try his hand at building single-family homes in the city.

Robert Doucette wants to build 32 homes — which would sell for about $225,000 apiece — in Syracuse’s Outer Comstock neighborhood. It would be the biggest subdivision within the city in more than 20 years.

He first proposed developing the roughly 6.5-acre parcel off Comstock and Jamesville avenues south of Syracuse University about four years ago but set the plan aside when the recession hit.

He’s back with a revised version of the project and is awaiting approval from the Syracuse Planning Commission. The commission Monday voted to delay action until it receives a plan on how stormwater would be managed. The energy-efficient, single-family houses would range in size from about 1,700 to 2,100 square feet. Most would be two-bedroom homes; some may have three bedrooms, Doucette said. He said he’s trying to keep the price close to $225,000.

Doucette, 64, a graduate of Le Moyne College and Syracuse University law school, has an established track record in downtown Syracuse. He helped convert Armory Square from a seedy, old warehouse district into a posh collection of restaurants, stores and places to live. His first building, renovated in 1984, is home of Pastabilities restaurant.

His projects also include Center Armory, Loew’s Residential Suites and Dey’s Plaza. But Doucette said he’s never done a project like the single-family house subdivision he is calling Xavier Woods.

Doucette, who grew up in rural Herkimer County, said he got the idea for the project when he attended a green building conference in Denver. He likes the idea of building housing in the city, using existing roads and water and sewer systems.

“We are not going out eating up any farmland,” he said.

Doucette, who lives about a mile north of the project, said he and his wife are considering living in the new development. He thinks the homes will be attractive to people who want to stay in the city.

However, some neighbors of Doucette’s propsed houses, especially residents whose properties border the site, said they oppose the project or at least have concerns about it. They said they fear it would increase drainage problems and traffic, among other concerns. Some said they don’t want any development on the property, period.

The wooded, brush-covered site is landlocked and bounded by Vincent Street, Jamesville Avenue, Thurber Street and Comstock Avenue. The subdivision would have access to Jamesville and Comstock avenues.

Doucette said he would use rain gardens and other means to prevent drainage problems an that the engineering would improve drainage in the area, not make it worse.

“We are trying to do what everyone thinks should be done.” He said.

He said he would leave more than 60 percent of the trees intact, and that trees will screen the development from adjoining properties.

Andrew Maxwell, Syracuse’s director of planning and sustainability, said infrastructure details, such as whether the new streets would be public or private, need to be nailed down.

The planning commission could give conditional approval to the project, but it cannot go ahead until the city engineer approves the storm-water management plan, Maxwell said. He agreed that Doucette’s plan may mitigate existing drainage problems.

“He’s done good work downtown, and he’s done good work in different parts of the city, and this is, I think, another quality project that we’ve got to iron out some details, but it’s exciting,” he said.

Maxwell said the subdivision is “smart growth” because it is an investment in the already built-up urban core. More commonly, new housing  developments have been built in the suburbs or rural areas, contributing to sprawl,

But a number of neighboring property owners have concerns about the project and some signed petitions opposing the development.

Letters and comments on file with the planning commission from residents cite worries about drainage and traffic, among other concerns. About a dozen people against the project attended the planning commission meeting Monday. People opposed to the project have created a blog ( to encourage debate on the proposal.

Lorraine Koury, who owns several properties in the neighborhood, has multiple concerns, from drainage to the height of the houses. She contends the developer is obligated to complete a full-blown environmental impact statement that would answer critical questions. She doesn’t trust the city to do a thorough evaluation of the drainage plan.

She also wants a traffic study, but Maxwell said it isn’t required.

Gloria Sage, president of the Outer Comstock Neighborhood Association, said Doucette presented detailed plans to the group, and some who heard them had concerns about traffic, the density and design of the houses, the fate of the wildlife and whether the development would be screened from adjoining properties.

Some in the neighborhood are indifferent about the project, some don’t want it, and others would prefer that property remain undeveloped but consider Doucette’s plan a good option if development is inevitable, Sage said.

“I personally think that it might be the best that we can get,” she said.

Stormwater Pollution Prevention

The Post Standard — April 26, 2011

What Is Stormwater Runoff?

Stormwater runoff is rain water or snowmelt that doesn’t soak into the ground. Instead, it flows across the land surface, absorbing pollutants along the way before entering lakes and streams. As it travels across impervious surfaces, stormwater carries trash and pollutants such as sediment, nutrients, presticides, oil and gasoline to local lakes, streams, rivers, and wetlands. This untreated waste makes water unsafe for drinking the water or from eating the fish from contaminated lakes and streams. Stormwater runoff also contributes to flooding and can lead to expensive repairs for municipalities and homeowners.

What are the Sources of Stormwater Pollution?

Stormwater pollution can originate from a variety of sources. Overuse of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers (especially phosphorous) on lawns, gardens and agricultural fields can pollute local waters. Bacteria can originate from animal waste, poorly maintained septic systems and illicit connections to storm sewer systems. Oil and grease from poorly maintained vehicles and sediment from construction activities can threaten the health of aquatic life and habitat.

Why is Stormwater Runoff a Problem in Central New York?

With the growth of Syracuse and surrounding suburbs, paved surfaces have replaced forests, wetlands, and fields. Much of the landscape is now covered by impervious surfaces — such as sidewalks, parking lots, roads, driveways, and buildings — which cause water runoff to flow into storm drains instead of seeping into the soil.

Runoff from impervious surfaces has become a major source of water pollution in local lakes and streams. Storm drains transport stormwater (often carrying pollutants) into Onondaga Lake and other waterbodies in Central New York. Impervious surfaces within a typical city block can generate five times more stormwater runoff than a forested area of the same size. Increased runoff after a heavy rainfall or rapid snowmelt in the spring can also lead to dangerous flooding and expensive repairs for municipalities and homeowners.

You Can Help by Making a Personal Commitment to Cleaner Water

By providing opportunities for stormwater to be absorbed or infiltrate into the soil, you can help reduce the flow of stormwater from your property and help improve water quality. Plants and naturally occurring microbes in soil will filter and break down some common pollutants found in stormwater. Trees and bushes slow the flow of stormwater runoff which reduces the potential for erosion and flooding. The roots absorb water and the leaves facilitate evapotraspiration. In addition to improving water quality, vegetation can boost property values and promote tourism. Clean, fresh water is not only essential for human health, it adds to the quality of life in Central New York.

Municipal Participation in Stormwater Management

The control of stormwater runoff is a national priority. A federal regulation, commonly known as Stormwater Phast II, requires permits for stormwater discharges from Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) in urbanized areas and for construction activities disturbing one or more acres. To implement the law, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation has issued two general permits: one for MS4s in urbanized areas and one for construction activities. The permits are part of the State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES).

Municipal officials are working hard at the local level to protect water resources through better stormwater management. Throughout Central New York, municipalities are making provisions to allow the use of permeable paving materials on public projects when conditions are appropriate. Developers are being asked to incorporate more green spaces in new developments and to avoid disturbing existing vegetation that naturally slows and infiltrates stormwater runoff. Municipal turf management programs no longer rely on the routine use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Roadway maintenance crews routinely remove trash and debris from storm drains and culverts. This reduces stormwater backups, road hazards, and the threat of flooding. These efforts are designed to improve water resources through the control of stormwater runoff.

50 Projects Set for Save The Rain

The Post Standard, GREEN — March 15, 2011

By: Katrina Koerting

Onondaga County plans to complete about 50 projects this year for its Save The Rain program. Khris Dodson, communications and program manager, said three main projects will be: installation of a green roof at OnCenter; reusing rain water to make ice at the War Memorial for the Syracuse Crunch hockey team; and creation of a subsurface wetland, to clean and slow the amount of runoff going into Harbor Brook.

“We want people to understand why it’s good to catch rain,” Dodson said.

The remaining projects will be a mix of government and private efforts. Private projects can be reimbursed up to $100,000 each. About 20 have been approved for reimbursement so far; six projects have been completed, including a parking lot renovation at Saint Lucy Church in Syracuse.

The Big Story: Sage Advice

The Post Standard, GREEN — January 18,2011

By: Hart Seely, Staff Writer

In 1889, Samuel Sage’s grandfather came to Syracuse from Eastern Europe. Ten years later, fed up with the city’s industrial pollution, he moved to the Adirondacks and became somewhat of an environmental activist.

In 1969, having moved to Syracuse from New York City, Samuel Sage found himself taking up his family’s legacy.

Today, Sage — president and founder of the Atlantic States Legal Foundation — is perhaps the main reason why $1 billion is being spent to clean Onondaga Lake. In 1986, his organization sued Onondaga County over Clean Water Act violations. In 1998, a federal settlement of the lawsuit launched the cleanup. But for every victory, the world furnishes new challenges.

“I’ve always said that to work in the environmental field, you have to be a manic depressive,” says Sage, 66. “You have to look for the good in everything, but sometimes, there isn’t much there.”

Sage has lived the battle. He doesn’t drive. He consumes as little energy as possible, believing that conservation by itself is a rewarding lifestyle. We find Sage in his office at 658 W. Onondaga St., a restored 1880s mansion on the Near West Side. He sits at a huge desk, as natural light streams in from unshaded windows. The temperature hovers around 50 degrees, his preference.

Soon, discussion turns to his signature topic.

Do you expect in your life to see people swimming in Onondaga Lake?

No, but not because of water quality problems. As far as the water quality goes, I think you could swim in the lake now. In fact, you could have been swimming in it for the last ten years. … The turbidity, the clarity of the lake has improved tremendously. It’s not really a problem.

There is no beach, though. And there is no constituency that I know of to put a beach on the lake. That’s part of the problem. I mean, that’s one of the reasons why, in my estimation. Onondaga Lake was allowed to deteriorate.

We’re a water-rich area, and people never thought that “sacrificing” the lake to industry was a hindrance to their lives. So, to answer your question — no, I don’t really expect to see swimming, but not because you couldn’t.

What would you like to see happen with the lake?

I’ve devoted a good share of my life to the cause of cleaning that lake. But I’ve never been really happy at what we’ve been doing. Look, let me rephrase that. I’m not unhappy — it’s being  cleaned up, and that’s obviously progress. But I think it’s a good case study, in essence, of what is wrong with America.

…At this point, Onondaga Lake is, in most ways, an artificial body of water. The wetlands have mostly been destroyed. The levels go up and down, the waste beds filled in. …We can’t turn the clock back to 1800, although I think we’d do a better job if we acknowledged what the lake was like back then, before we started on our merry way. But we have no vision for the lake.

…What do we want? What does society want with that lake? And how can it be most beneficial to the public? We’re still debating that, but not always in a coherent fashion.

Ok, but what would you like to see?

I would like to see us look at the entire Onondaga Lake basin — not just the lake — and reach decisions that make sense in the light of economic reality, scientific reality, cultural needs, land use patterns, etc.

…I don’t think we always look at the broader pictures of possibilities and consequences. You have sediments coming down the creek. Are they increasing? Are they different? And what do you do about it? When you had a real creek going through the city, one that meandered, the water slowed down, and you had natural attenuation — sediments dropping out. But we don’t like those kind of solutions. They don’t let the engineers build things.

These issues concern me, more than the lake itself at this point. For example, Bloody Brook — we have terrible pollution problems there.

Where’s Bloody Brook?

It flows through the old GM (General Motors) property, the northeastern part. They used calcium and other active chemicals. Because that’s a plant still in operation, in my estimation, it’s not being looked at as thoroughly as, let’s say, Allied (Chemical) or LCP.

As a society, we have a long way to go in taking these issues seriously. At Onondaga Lake, we’ve paved more and more of the shoreline. The trail around the lake is something I have opposed since I’ve been in Syracuse. It’s not that I don’t think people should be able to recreate at the lake, but there are issues that must be addressed. A trail should be built with consideration of our fellow creatures’ habitat. Perhaps at times of the year, it should be closed.

There are ways to manage these things, but we’re fixated: Here’s a lake. let’s put a trail around it! We need a bicycle path! We don’t take everything into account.

Change of subject. Want to talk about hydrofracking?

(Sighs) It’s an issue I’ve tried to avoid. It’s out there. It’s a major economic issue for the state. There have clearly been disaters in Pennsylvania. Whether they are inevitable — either because of technical issues of because the regulatory reach will never be good enough — I’m not in a position to judge.

Everybody talks about “alternative” energy, “sustainable” energy, “renewable” energy — whatever jargon you want, from the point of view that, “This is great!” Nobody talks about it from the point of view that you need a substitution for the energy sources that are bad.

It doesn’t seen to me that, as a society, we have come to grips with the fact that we must do more with less energy. We use more energy per capita than any place on earth. We have a very inefficient lifestyle, and we’ve got to change. Every project is a tradeoff.

…Eventually, we’re going to do hydrofracking. We’ll say, “Let’s get rid of something worse.” For example, let’s get rid of burning coal in New York state. Some things in society simply have to be phased out. Burning coal is one.

Does Syracuse deserve to call itself “the Emerald City?”

I think (former) Mayer (Matthew) Driscoll understood the concept well ahead of many other municipalities around the country. But at what point do good intentions translate into calling yourself Utopia? I don’t know.

I guess I’m a critic — some would say a cynic — but increasingly in this country we settle for second or third best. Thirty or 40 years ago, New York state was the leader in all kinds of programs. Now, we’re not nearly in that category, whether it’s health care or education or whatever.

Our newly elected U.S Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle says she doesn’t believe in human-caused climate change. How does that make you feel?

It’s this anti-intellectual, anti-science view. We’re pro-engineering, in the sense that we think we can fix any problem, whether we know anything about it or not.

I have had difficulty with the climate-change movement from the perspective that we spent much too much time, in terms of public policy, debating whether our clearly changed climate is a natural cycle or is caused by human intervention. …Essentially, it doesn’t matter. Things can be done to tie carbon back into the ground and, of course, we should be using less energy.

I think the American public has been brainwashed into thinking more is always better. For the most part, I think more is worse. We have to work toward a lifestyle that doesn’t require bigness and waste.

ASLF made the list of OCRRA Blue Ribbon Recyclers Standout Businesses

Post Standard, January 4, 2011

A Green Vision for Onondaga County

Home & Garden (Eagle Newspaper) July 14, 2010

“This new approach will provide a more environmentally beneficial way to capture storm water while also improving air and water quality, improving neighborhood aesthetics and increasing property values throughout the city.”

-Onondaga County Executive, Joanne M. Mahoney
It’s a rainy day in Central New York and rainfall flows off of rooftops, sidewalks and streets into storm drains all across the city of Syracuse.

For many this action doesn’t seem like a significant event, but a closer look reveals a much deeper problem. Like many older cities in the Northeast, Syracuse utilizes a combined sewer overflow system (CSO’s).

In this system sanitary wastewater and storm water runoff are collected in the same sewer line. During heavy rain fall or snow melt events, the volume of water entering the sewer can exceed the capacity of the sewer line and cause an overflow. During these overflow events, combined sanitary and storm water are released at discharge points into Onondaga Creek, Harbor Brook, and Onondaga Lake. The combined sewer overflow system, originally designed to prevent sewers from potentially backing up into streets and basements, can present significant pollution problems for Onondaga Lake.

In November 2009, Onondaga County Executive Joanne M. Mahoney announced a ground breaking program that will utilize both traditional “gray” construction projects combined with innovative “green” projects to address CSO pollution.

This new plan incorporates gray solutions such as storage facilities and sewer separation projects with “green” infrastructure throughout the city to capture storm water where it lands, significantly reducing the amounts of storm water that enter the sewer system.

These engineered systems, including porous sidewalks and parking lots, green roofs, rain gardens and green streets, will decrease the number of overflow events and improve water quality in the lake and its surrounding tributaries. It will also position Onondaga County as a leader in the use of green infrastructure to prevent storm water runoff.

County Executive Mahoney said, “This new approach will provide a more environmentally beneficial way to capture storm water while also improving air and water quality, improving neighborhood aesthetics and increasing property values throughout the city.”

Engineering systems, including porous sidewalks and parking lots, green roofs, rain gardens and green streets, will decrease the number of overflow events and improve water quality in the lake and its surrounding tributaries and position Onondaga County as a leader in the use of garden infrastructure to prevent storm water runoff.

For more information on the County’s plans, please visit

 Fixing New York’s Sewers 

Fixing New York’s sewers

Post Standard, February 20, 2010

Rebutting anti-green propaganda

Rebutting anti-green propaganda

Post Standard, July 25, 2009

Soak It Up

Soak It Up

Post Standard, June 16, 2009


Expert: Diverting rainwater spares sewers

Charles McChesney, Post Standard staff writer, June 13, 2009

Designer tells Syracuse FOCUS group about overflow prevention.

Green roofs, porous pavement, rain barrels, rain gardens and urban orchards could all help reduce the amount of water that rushes into the drains and sewers of Central New York during a storm, according to an environmental expert.

By holding or diverting rainwater, such “green infrastructure” reduces the demand on the sewage system and ultimately costs less than current “gray infrastructure,” Alexander M. Shisler, a landscape designer working for the Atlantic States Legal Foundation, told a FOCUS Greater Syracuse Core Group meeting at City Hall Commons Friday.

Shisler said green infrastructure also bring “physiological benefits,” making people happier and healthier in their surroundings.

Rain puts demand on the city’s combined sewer overflow system as rainwater mixes with sewage, he explained. Today the system handles about 83 percent of the combined sewer overflow. Work being done beneath the trolley lot at Armory Square is expected to raise that to 86 percent, he said.

Green infrastructure work could handle another 3 percent to 7 percent, Shisler said.

There is already some green infrastructure around Syracuse: A rain garden at the Zen Center on West Seneca Turnpike retains water so that it doesn’t rush into nearby Onondaga Creek.

A green roof is under construction at the Syracuse Center of Excellence, the project on Erie Boulevard East that is expected to be completed this fall.

Other local green infrastructure projects on the drawing boards include:

  • Porous pavement, plantings and a water-storage cistern at the Dunbar Center.
  • Porous pavement for the lot the Syracuse Market uses.
  • An orchard planned for a lot off West Onondaga Street near the Rescue Mission.

The projects are expected to be joined later this year by a public-awareness campaign by Onondaga County. BJ Adigun, of the county water environment protection department, said the project is modeled, in part, on the county’s recycling-awareness efforts.

Trustee council formed to assess Onondaga Lake injury

February 4, 2009

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the Onondaga Nation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) today announced the formation of a trustee council that will assess natural resources injuries at the Onondaga Lake Superfund site and plan and implement restoration activities for the lake and the associated watershed.

The formation of the Onondaga Lake Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Trustee Council is an important step in the process of addressing natural resource injuries to the lake. Trustees, under the Superfund law, are permitted to make claims on behalf of the public and negotiate settlements to address natural resource injuries caused by the release of hazardous substances. Injuries can include ecological and recreational-use losses and cultural losses. Any resulting funds must be used for restoration projects.

“Onondaga Lake presents one of the most complex and challenging environmental concerns facing New York State,” said DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis. “We look forward to working with the Onondaga Nation and the U.S Fish and wildlife Service to restore the ecosystem of this once magnificent resource for the benefit of people of the Onondaga Nation, the city of Syracuse, and Central New York.”

“Members of the Trustee Council will work together to develop a restoration plan and to put that plan into action as swiftly as possible,” said Marvin E. Moriarty, regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Northeast. “When the lake is restored, we will all benefit — the fish and wildlife that live in the lake and around it, and the people of New York, Onondaga Nation citizens, and the American people.”

“This is an important step towards healing old wounds and advancing the serious and complex work of restoring Onondaga Lake, which is sacred to the Haudenosaunee Confederacy,” said Joseph Health, General Counsel for the Onondaga Nation. “The Naton looks forward to working with the trustee council to ensure that restoration fully addresses the devastating harm to the lake. The Nation has been a steward of Onondaga Lake for over 1,000 years. It is appropriate that the Nation is able to continue its stewardship in the context of this process.”

Working with the public, the trustee council will determine what restoration is needed to compensate for natural resource injuries. This work goes beyond any remedial actions required to address the contamination of Onondaga Lake and its environs by parties responsible for the releases of Hazardous substances and oil to the environment. the trustees are currently working diligently at developing a cooperative agreement for the assessment of natural resource injuries with Honeywell, the company that is currently working under a legal order with DEC on the lake’s cleanup and is one of the parties potentially responsible for the release of hazardous substances.

For more information on the Natural Resource Damages and Assessment Restoration process at Onondaga Lake, go to

Scientists Marvel At ‘Spectacular’ Progress in Onondaga Lake

Scientists Marvel At ‘Spectacular’ Progress in Onondaga Lake

Post Standard, September 28, 2008


$500,000 Sought for Green Education

John Mariani, Post Standard, staff writer

But several legislators on Onondaga County panel balk at amount. Onondaga County would spend $500,000 to teach the public about its new green plans for the Onondaga Lake cleanup under a proposal that cleared a Legislature committee Wednesday.

But more members of the Environmental Protection  Committee abstained from voting on the measure than voted for it, and when the bill reaches the Ways and Means Committee on Friday, it’s likely to contain a lower amount. “I agree on the need to get it started. But $500,000 for six months is not my idea of where to get it started,” said James Rhinehard, R-Skaneateles. Besides sitting on Environmental Protection, Rhinehart chairs the money-minding Ways and Means Committee.

Rhinehart said he would prefer authorizing a smaller amount and letting administrators come back with results before spending more.

Syracuse Democrats Monica Williams and Lovie Winslow disagreed, saying the return trips to the Legislature would be costly in terms of time and paperwork.

They provided the only votes for the bill, but that was enough as no one voted against it. Rhinehart abstained, as did Casey Jordan, R-Clay. James Corbett, R-Geddes, initially voted yes, then changed to abstain.

The vote taken, Rhinehart said he would try to negotiate a lower amount with county Physical Services Administrator Jean Smiley before Ways and Means meets. “I’m not against looking at paring this down,” Smiley said. “I am against paring it down all the way.”

The outreach effort would be part of the amended Onondaga Lake cleanup agreement that the county, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Atlantic States Legal Foundation are seeking. The amendment, if approved by the court, would authorize environmentally friendly methods to reduce storm water in the sewer system and lessen the need to build sewage treatment plants.

The outreach program would promote public awareness of the link between runoff and pollution and build support for green solutions such as porous sidewalks, rain gardens, roof gardens and urban forests. Property owners, civic groups, churches, schools and neighborhood centers all would be targeted in the city and the suburbs, Smiley said.


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