Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Consent Decree Fact Sheet - October 2006

New York State and Honeywell International Reach an Agreement Requiring the Company to Clean Up the Onondaga Lake Bottom Site

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), New York State Department of Law, and Honeywell International (Honeywell) have reached an agreement on a Consent Decree that requires the company to conduct a cleanup of contaminated sediments in Onondaga Lake in accordance with the Record of Decision (ROD) that was issued by the NYSDEC and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) on July 1, 2005. The proposed Consent Decree is a legal agreement which requires Honeywell to design and implement the cleanup plan. The proposed Consent Decree and other documents are available for public review and comment.


At its chemical production plants near Onondaga Lake, Allied-Signal, Inc., now Honeywell, began using or producing hazardous and nonhazardous substances in 1917. In June of 1989, the State filed a legal action in US District Court against Allied, seeking environmental remediation and natural resource damages arising from the company's pollution of the Onondaga Lake system. The lake and related contaminated areas were listed on the USEPA's Superfund National Priorities List in December 1994 and are included on the State Superfund list.

A Remedial Investigation (RI), which was completed in 2002, investigated the nature and extent of contamination in Onondaga Lake. It included the collection and analysis of over 6,000 samples (e.g., sediment, water, groundwater, and biota). The RI found mercury contamination throughout the lake, with the most elevated concentrations detected in sediments in the Ninemile Creek delta and in the sediments and wastes present in the southwestern portion of the lake. Other contaminants present within Onondaga Lake sediments include benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes, chlorinated benzenes, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, and polychlorinated dioxins and furans. These contaminants are primarily found in the southwestern portion of Onondaga Lake. Much of the contamination in this part of the lake is present in an 84-acre area known as the In-Lake Waste Deposit (ILWD). Elevated concentrations of some contaminants in certain locations of the ILWD extend to a depth of at least 25 feet in lake sediments. Onondaga Lake fish have elevated contaminant levels and contamination in the lake presents risks to all trophic levels of the Onondaga Lake ecosystem.In addition to determining the nature and extent of contamination, the RI also included an evaluation of the fate and transport of contaminants, and the completion of a human health risk assessment and a baseline ecological risk assessment.

On November 29, 2004, the NYSDEC issued for public comment a Proposed Plan, or cleanup plan, for addressing hazardous waste concerns in Onondaga Lake. After considering public comment, a ROD was issued for the Onondaga Lake Bottom Subsite on July 1, 2005 by the NYSDEC and USEPA, in cooperation with the New York State Department of Health. Comments received from the public were responded to in a Responsiveness Summary, which is an attachment to the ROD.

The remedy, as described in the ROD, includes the dredging of as much as an estimated 2,653,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediments from the lake and the installation of isolation capping over an estimated 425 acres of the littoral zone (the portion of the lake in which water depths range from 0 to 30 feet). It also includes the placement of a thin layer cap on an estimated 154 acres of the profundal zone (the portion of the lake in which water depths exceed 30 feet). The majority of the dredged materials will be placed in a Sediment Containment Area (SCA) that will be constructed on one of the Honeywell waste beds. However, the most highly contaminated materials will be treated and/or disposed at an off-site permitted landfill.

The project will include an estimated five-year design process for all aspects of the remedial program. During this initial five year program, the water treatment facilities and the SCA will be constructed. This will be followed by in-lake construction activities (e.g., dredging) which are expected to take four years to complete.

The estimated cost to implement the remedy is approximately $451 million. This is comprised of the cost to construct the remedy (estimated to be $414 million) and the average annual operation and maintenance cost (estimated at approximately $3 million).

Honeywell recently conducted a study of the potential SCA locations on the wastebeds and recommended that the SCA be constructed on an area called Waste Bed 13. The NYSDEC and USEPA concur with the recommendation and the siting of the SCA at Waste Bed 13 is incorporated in the proposed Statement of Work (a technical document attached to the Consent Decree) and is documented in a Fact Sheet which is also attached to the Consent Decree.

The NYSDEC and USEPA are also issuing for public comment a draft Explanation of Significant Differences (ESD) which describes a change to a portion of the remedy required by the ROD in the southwest portion of the lake (the draft ESD is attached to the Consent Decree). The change is necessary to ensure the stability of the adjacent causeway and is supported by recent, more extensive sampling of the area which indicates that the pure chemical contamination is significantly less extensive than previously believed.

Public Comments

The proposed Consent Decree and documents relating to the siting of the SCA and the draft ESD are available for public review and comment. A public availability session and a public meeting have been scheduled (see the details below) as part of the citizen participation program for this site. The public availability session provides an opportunity for you to learn more about the site, the proposed Consent Decree, the siting of the SCA, and the draft ESD directly from NYSDEC staff who will be available to respond to your questions. During the public meeting, the NYSDEC will present information regarding the site, the proposed Consent Decree, the siting of the SCA, and the draft ESD, respond to your questions, and accept public comments.

On October 19, 2006 from 3:00 to 5:00 P.M., the NYSDEC will hold an informal availability session for questions and answers regarding the proposed Consent Decree, the siting of the SCA, and the draft ESD. The formal public meeting will be held on October 19, 2006 at 7:00 P.M. Both the availability session and the public meeting will take place at the Martha Eddy Room in the Art and Home Center at the New York State Fairgrounds.

Next Steps

The NYSDEC will continue to work with Honeywell to implement the remedy. Technical documents will be reviewed and approved throughout the design and construction phases of the project to help ensure the effectiveness of the remedy. Additionally, it will remain a NYSDEC priority to continue the public outreach process. Meetings with interested parties, the public and the scientific community are expected to continue with the purpose of fostering good communication, progress, and a project that benefits the entire community. Updates will also be provided through fact sheets such as this one.

Should there be any questions regarding this project, please contact:

Timothy Larson, P.E.
Onondaga Lake Superfund Site - Public Comments
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
625 Broadway
Albany, New York 12233-7016
(518) 402-9767

The NYSDEC will accept written public comments (regarding the proposed Consent decree, the draft ESD, and the siting of the SCA) during the 30-day public comment period commencing on October 12, 2006 and ending on November 13, 2006. Comments should be sent to the Project Manager whose address is provided above. Alternatively, comments may be sent via email to the following email address: (Please indicate "Onondaga Lake" in the subject line of the e-mail.) A "Responsiveness Summary" will be prepared that describes public comments received and how the NYSDEC will address the concerns raised.