Honeywell's inside look at Onondaga Lake clean-up
Syracuse is known for it's rich history in salt production. It's the industry that put this city on the map and it ended up in Onondaga Lake. Nine years later, it's still being cleaned up.
Honeywell is spending hundreds of millions of dollars, picking up the pollution left behind by its predecessor, Allied Chemical Factory which closed in 1986. After years of spills, a toxic mix of mercury and other chemicals ended up in the lake.
Honeywell's project director, John McAuliffe, says years of planning went into the project.
"We spent years in preparation. We had to build the facilities, the water treatment plant and sediment consolidation center and the pipeline. We had to do all that before we could start the dredging last summer," says McAuliffe.
The company behind the clean-up is rarely in front of the camera, but now, we're getting an inside look at the project that's garnered so much criticism.
McAuliffe took CNYCentral on a tour of their newly opened visitor's center on the southwestern shore of the lake. We asked him if by the projected completion date ion 2016, the fish would be clean enough to eat.
"I can't predict what the Department of Health will say about the fish in 2016, but we're hopeful. We have to keep monitoring, but that's the objective, that we can remove the fishing advisories from Onondaga Lake," says McAuliffe.
Right now, the contaminated sediment is being dredged from the bottom of the lake and transported to a contamination site in Camillus called wastebed 13.
Since the dredging started last summer, people in a nearby Camillus neighborhood have been complaining about the project. Elaine Everitt, who's lived in Golden Meadows for six years, says the wastebed where all that contaminated sediment is piling up is polluting the air and making her sick.
"You're trapped in your own house, you're sick in your own house, and your young kids are breathing these chemicals so I won't even open my windows," says Everitt.
Juliette Dedo and her husband moved into the community a year ago.
"I started getting really bad nose bleeds, they started in the middle of the night where I would be up for a half hour and I've never had that before," says Dedo.
McAuliffe denies the clean-up caused those health issues.
"There are health issues and there are odor issues. It's important to understand that the regulatory community has consistently said that there are no community health impacts," says McAuliffe.
Neighbors still don't understand why this is happening in their backyard.
"We're taking two million cubic yards of sediment plus the water. That would be like 20 carrier domes of material. If we took it off site it would still have to be de-watered here along the shores of Onondaga Lake, put in trucks, hundreds of trucks a day, and transported off site," says McAuliffe.
Now, neighbors say their only option left is to pack up and leave.
"We want to start a family and it makes me nervous and sometimes I feel almost reckless. If I'm getting nosebleeds, what's that going to do to a baby," says Dedo.
"I know that it's not, I can feel that it's not, I feel sick and I know that it's not safe and no matter what they say I'm never going to believe that and I can't keep my children here in this situation, its not an option," says Everitt.
With millions of hours and dollars invested, Honeywell isn't going anywhere until Onondaga Lake is clean.