Onondaga Lake dredging lawsuit brought by Camillus residents dismissed in federal court

The Camillus Clean Air Coalition asked a federal judge to stop Honeywell from dumping sediment dredged from Onondaga Lake at Wastebed 13 in Camillus. Arguments in the case were heard in federal court in Syracuse on Friday morning.

Judge Frederick J. Scullin, Jr. dismissed the lawsuit because legal challenges to the 2006 agreement between Honeywell and state and federal agencies during the cleanup period are prohibited by federal law. Judge Scullin ruled, however, that the Camillus residents may still peruse damages.

"Monetary damages for injury to property and health and welfare of the Camillus families and their children, but it's unfortunate that we can't really stop them from getting further injured," says Kenneth McCallion, the attorney representing The Camillus Clean Air Coalition.

Last month, Judge Scullin denied the neighborhoodâ??s request for an injunction and required the two parties to prepare for arguments in court.

The Camillus Clean Air Coalition is comprised of about 52 concerned residents in Camillus. They first filed the lawsuit in March.

The residents claim they have developed health problems from chemical fumes from the treatment site, such as nosebleeds and headaches. The dredged sentiment is pumped from the lake to Wastebed 13. They say Honeywellâ??s air monitoring techniques are insufficient and demand a state-of-the-art air monitoring system be put in place.

One of those residents is Elaine Everitt. Last summer when she would play outside with her children, she noticed some strange symptoms.

"I would have a burning sensation in my nose and throat and it's only gotten worse," says Everitt.

Everitt went to the doctor who told her it was from exposure to the Onondaga Lake Clean-Up.

"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.

Everitt is not alone. Juliette Dedo moved into the Golden Meadows community a year ago with her husband.

"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.

A few weekends ago, her husband got his first nose bleed.

"The part that made me the most frustrated is that he told me not to worry, that he'd bring home masks from work that we could wear in our backyard. What kind of life is that? You want to be able to barbeque in your own backyard. You shouldn't have to wear a face mask," says Dedo.

With Wednesday's court decision, they're running out of legal options and feel like they have no choice, but to move out and move on.

"We want to start a family and it makes me nervous and sometimes I feel almost reckless. If I'm getting nose bleeds, what's that going to do a baby," says Dedo.

"I know it's not, I can feel that it's not. I feel sick and I know 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. It's not an option," says Everitt.

The dredging started up for the season, with new odor control measures, in April despite the lawsuit.

The Camillus Clean Air Coalition and the town of Camillus hired two scientists to look back at an EPA study done in 2010, which determined that a safe amount of chemicals from the dredging process were being released in the air. The independent study found that the EPA used flawed methods to reach their conclusion. The DEC responded by saying the air monitoring data they collected shows no threat to public health.

Golden Meadows resident Lynda Wade shook her head in disbelief when the judge handed down his ruling.

"What happened in here today was disgusting. I mean I prepared myself for the worst and this is the worst," says Wade.

Honeywell began dredging Onondaga Lake in July 2012 and was forced to stop just weeks later when residents complained of an odor. Dredging started again after Honeywell added filters and equipment covers at a treatment site. The dredging does not take place in the winter months.

Onondaga Lake was once considered one of the most polluted bodies of water in the country. The cleanup project is the biggest lake dredging project for environmental remediation in the history of the state.

The $451 million project is expected to take four years, lasting though 2016.