U.S. Water News Online
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- State regulators want New Jersey-based
Honeywell International to spend $449 million over seven years to rid
mercury and other toxic chemicals from Onondaga Lake, considered one
of the nation's most polluted freshwater bodies.
If Honeywell agrees, the cleanup proposed by the state Department
of Environmental Conservation would be the second costliest in state
history behind the estimated $460 million dredging of PCBs from the
Hudson River by General Electric.
The proposal would require Morris Township, N.J.-based Honeywell
to dredge up to 2.65 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment
from the nearly five-mile-long lake and cap about 580 acres of lake
Earlier this year, Honeywell proposed its own strategy,
recommending a three-year $237 million plan to dredge 508,000 cubic
yards and cap almost 350 acres. DEC's ideal remedy would have
required the company to spend $2.33 billion to dredge the entire lake
and build a permanent cap over 2,329 acres.
Company spokeswoman Victoria Streitfeld said the DEC's plan was
"generally in line" with the Honeywell proposal, but declined to say
whether Honeywell would agree to it.
"We're committed to continuing to work with the state," she said.
"We will continue to refine the plan during the DEC's public comment
Before the 20th century, Onondaga Lake was a popular tourist
destination, ringed by grand resorts and an amusement park. But
spoiled by decades of industrial and municipal pollution, it became a
federal Superfund site in 1994. Because of that designation, the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency will review and comment on the state
The Honeywell waste sites are the legacy of the former Allied
Chemical Co. complex in Solvay that closed in 1986. Honeywell merged
with Allied in 1999 and became responsible for pollution that Allied
dumped into the lake and along the shoreline.
Allied made liquid chlorine and caustic soda at the plant for
almost 100 years before selling the property to LCP Chemicals in
1979. The plant ceased operation in 1988 under pressure from the
state following repeated chlorine leaks.
Today, the lake remains a toxic stew of mercury, ammonia,
phosphorous, PCBs, benzene, cyanide and other pollutants. The lake
bottom is a virtual junkyard of abandoned cars, sunken barges,
discarded tires and rims, and broken dishes.
DEC Commissioner Erin Crotty said restoration of the lake is one
of the state's highest priorities, adding that over the past several
years DEC scientists and engineers evaluated a number of alternatives
and decided the proposed plan was "the most appropriate remedy."
The state's plan would take three years for design work and four
years for construction, she said. The plan recommends building a cap
over 425 acres of lake bottom, with a thin cap over about 154 acres
in the deepest parts of the lake. Honeywell proposed capping 347
acres with clean sand.
Under the state's plan, the most contaminated sediments would be
sent to a toxic waste landfill. Non-hazardous sediments would be
buried in a portion of the old Allied waste beds on the lake's
Onondaga County Executive Nicholas Pirro said his chief concern is
that the plan not leave the county liable if anything goes wrong. The
county already is involved in a $425 million effort to stop sewage
overflows into the lake.
Meanwhile, Joseph Heath, a lawyer for the Onondaga Indian Nation
said the plan "is very incomplete, and is entirely inadequate." Heath
said the lake's entire bottom is polluted and should be part of the
cleanup, as well as the contaminated ground sources that continue to
contribute to the pollution.
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