U.S. Water News Online
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Local residents of upstate New York
Onondaga lake as the most polluted lake in the nation, and so
far no one has argued that claim. Toxic contamination from industries
and nutrient overloads caused by sewage have combined to effectively
"kill" the lake located just northwest of Syracuse,
but a municipal compliance plan (MCP) for improved wastewater
treatment is due by Jan. 11.
In addition, a draft environmental impact statement on a
cleanup plan should be released at the same time, noted Samuel
Sage, president and co-founder of Atlantic States Legal Foundation,
a Syracuse-based organization which has been fighting for a cleaner
Lake Onondaga since the mid-1980s. "If all goes well, we'll
have a final MCP/EIS with an implementation schedule approved
by all parties," said Sage. In a series of litigation, Atlantic
States has been fighting for an upgrade of city wastewater treatment
plants, which dump about 80 million gallons of treated effluent
into the lake each day.
But is Onondaga Lake really the most polluted lake in the
"I'll hedge for a second and say that there is no widely
recognized basis for rating the relative severity of pollution
in lakes," said Steve Effler, director of research for the
Upstate Freshwater Institute. "But I think it's safe to say
that the index of pollution in the lake is very profound, and
no one on either side of the issue has been able to come up with
another lake which is more severely impacted by pollution,"
added Effler. In fact, he said, there's something about the lake
that even zebra mussels can't seem to tolerate. "Zebra mussels
have their standards, and apparently Onondaga Lake doesn't meet
those standards," said Effler.
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