Onondaga Lake Restoration

Onondaga Lake is often called the most polluted in the country. The federal government had begun a process for cleaning it up, but the Syracuse environmental community was worried that the tax dollars earmarked for the project would not be well spent.

On February 13 US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Representative  James Walsh convened a so-called Management Conference to begin planning a cleanup.  Funded with a $500,000 federal appropriation, the Conference includes the state governor and attorney general, the Onondaga County Executive, the mayor of Syracuse, the EPA, and the Army Corps of Engineers.

We are pleased that the long-neglected lake was receiving governmental attention, but concerned that the Conference is misguided. For example, its first action ordered that a study be undertaken by the Army Corps, not to be completed until 1993, that would precede initiating remedial action.  Another source of deep concern over the management conference was the absence of a voting representative from the environmental community. ASLF had taken the lead in organizing a coalition of environmental groups including Sierra Club, Audubon, Trout Unlimited, the Izaak Walton League, and the Adirondack Mountain Club to fight for a more influential role in the planning process.

We were also continuing our long-standing legal involvement with the Lake. In 1989, as a result of an ASLF lawsuit, Onondaga County agreed in a consent order to upgrade its Metro Sewage Treatment Plant, one the lake’s largest sources of pollution and we were continuing to monitor the County’s progress with implementing required changes.

On December 5th, 1989, we filed suit against Bristol-Myers. The suit alleges violations of permit limits on several pollutants. Upon receiving our notice letter, Bristol, instead of attempting to reduce its discharges, petitioned the county to change its permit to legalize its current level of pollution.  Incredibly, the County agreed to many of the changes, and ASLF is considering a suit against the County to reverse these illegal permit revisions.

Contact ASLF here.