Onondaga Lake cleanup to meet major milestone

State DEC Commissioner Joe Martens addresses the crowd

The cleanup of Onondaga Lake is about to meet a major milestone. Top state and federal officials are coming to the shoreline in Liverpool to "celebrate" it, according to a media advisory.

At 11:30 Thursday, State DEC Commissioner Joe Martens joined the head of the EPA's Superfund Program for New York, a Senior Vice President of the Honeywell Corporation, Mayor Stephanie Miner, the President of SUNY ESF and others.

The event is tied to the beginning of a four year dredging project that will commence later this summer. Martens told the gather that Onondaga Lake "is making a huge comeback. It's going to be important for ecological reasons and economical reasons as well. It's just a win win for all."

For the past five years, the DEC, Honeywell and other agencies have been putting together plans to dredge contaminated sediments from the bottom of Onondaga Lake, which had been polluted over the past century by various industries.

Honeywell is the successor to Allied Chemical, which was responsible for much of the contamination.

Once three dredges vacuum the polluted sediment from the bottom of the lake, the material will be piped four miles to a former Allied landfill in Camillus. The sediment will be contained in plastic tubes. Any water that drains from the tubes will be treated and emptied back into the lake.

When asked if the dredging project could put pollutants in the water column, Honeywell Vice President Kate Adams replied, "We're using a closed system. So that means this material is being lifted into a close pipe and in that closed pipe will be brought to the containment area."

The state Department of Conservation says an estimated 2 million cubic yards of material will be removed from 185 acres of the 3,000-acre lake bottom and 21 acres in three spots next to the lake. Contaminated areas that are not dredged will be capped with sand and gravel; about 417 acres.

The project is expected to cost $451 million. It is a major part of a court ordered cleanup of Onondaga Lake that had been met with opposition from local residents and some environmental groups.

Decades of industrial activity poured mercury and other metals along with solvents and PCBs into the lake northwest of Syracuse. The lake was added to the federal Superfund list in 1994.