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For Release: Thursday, May 31, 2012

DEC: $451 Million Cleanup of Onondaga Lake Enters Dredging Phase

June 14 Informational Meeting Scheduled for Community to Learn More

Dredging and capping of contaminated sediments in Onondaga Lake is set to begin this summer, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens announced at an event in Syracuse today. The $451 million Superfund remediation project has undergone five years of design and engineering, with preparation for dredging and capping now underway. Honeywell International is conducting the project with oversight by DEC, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New York State Department of Health (DOH).

"The cleanup of Onondaga Lake has made tremendous progress over the past several years through cleaning up industrial pollution sites and Onondaga County's state-of-the-art wastewater treatment projects," said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. "Onondaga Lake will now undergo perhaps one of the largest, most complex and advanced dredging projects in the nation that will benefit the environment and public health while helping the community through increased economic activity. Today has been a long time in the making and was made possible through the cooperative efforts of DEC, EPA, DOH, Honeywell, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and the local communities surrounding the lake."

"This lake dredging is an important step in restoring this beautiful natural resource," said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. "By removing some of the most contaminated materials, we will see a reduction in pollution that will benefit our communities and the ecosystem. Through this effort, and our active involvement with the Onondaga Lake Partnership, EPA is committed to a healthier future for Onondaga Lake and its watershed."

The dredging project is scheduled to be fully operational later this summer. Activities such as debris removal and equipment testing will be taking place over the next several weeks. Honeywell estimates more than 500 Central New York scientists, engineers and skilled craft laborers are working on the project, and Honeywell plans to hire more local workers as the project continues.

Industrial activities located on or near Onondaga Lake contributed to a variety of industrial contaminants affecting the lake, including mercury and other metals, chlorinated benzenes, benzene, toluene, xylene, ethylbenzene and PCBs. This resulted in risks to the ecological community and potentially to people who consume fish caught from the lake.

Dredging will be performed in 185 acres of the lake, which represents approximately 6 percent of the 3,000-acre lake bottom. In addition, dredging will be performed in 21 acres in three areas adjacent to the lake. The estimated volume of materials to be removed is approximately two million cubic yards.

Dredging and capping operations in Onondaga Lake are anticipated to be completed in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Habitat restoration activities to be performed in all remediated areas are anticipated to be completed in 2016.

The Onondaga Lake Superfund cleanup plan includes the following components with the goal of protecting human health and the environment:

  • removing material from the bottom of the lake by hydraulic dredging;
    capping 417 acres of the lake bottom, or approximately 14 percent, to isolate the underlying contaminated
  • materials from the environment;
  • restoring habitat in areas where dredging or capping occurs;
  • addressing the deeper portion of the lake by measures such as thin layer capping over 27 acres, nitrate addition and monitored natural recovery; and
  • implementing a long-term operation, maintenance and monitoring program to ensure the effectiveness of the remedy.

In 1994, Onondaga Lake and upland source areas were added to the EPA's Superfund National Priorities List. The dredging, capping and habitat restoration work that is about to begin in Onondaga Lake is a major component of a larger, comprehensive remedial program that encompasses 11 additional sites around the lake. These sites are in various stages of cleanup in order to eliminate or reduce contaminant sources to the lake as well as clean up the sites themselves. This includes remedial work in some of the lake's tributaries (including Geddes Brook, Ninemile Creek, and Harbor Brook), remedial work at former plant sites (including the former LCP/Bridge Street Plant, which was the largest source of mercury to Onondaga Lake), and remedial work along lakeshore areas where groundwater collection systems have been installed.

Sediment will be hydraulically dredged and transported by a double-walled pipe to the lined consolidation area where it will be pumped into geotextile tubes for drying. Once the dredging has been completed, the geotextile tubes will be capped in a manner protective of human health and the environment. Water removed from the sediment will be collected and treated to meet water quality standards before being returned to the lake. Dredging and capping activities are scheduled to take place 24 hours a day, six to seven days a week for five years from early spring to late fall, weather permitting. Lake habitat will be re-established and improved on dredged and capped areas.

Protection of public health and the environment has been incorporated into all phases of the project. Additional safety measures are outlined in the Community Health and Safety Plan. Air quality monitoring results are available at Honeywell's lake cleanup website (which can be found in the right hand column of this page).

For more information, the community is invited to a public information meeting on Thursday, June 14 in the Martha Eddy Room of the Art and Home Center at the New York State Fairgrounds. An open house will run from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. where the community is invited to stop by any time to interact one-on-one with project managers and ask questions. The formal information session will follow at 6:00 p.m. and include a presentation. Topics to be discussed are what the public can expect to see and experience during the project; how the community is being protected; who the public can call if they have any questions or concerns; and how interested community members can stay informed about progress. The presentation will be followed by ample time for questions and discussion.

Environmental remediation project information including project design documents, fact sheets, the Community Health and Safety Plan, and how to sign up to receive DEC's Onondaga Lake News email updates, are all available on DEC's website.

Honeywell Senior Vice President and General Counsel Kate Adams said, "The commitment, energy, and talent of the Syracuse community, including our 500 local workers, have helped shape the progress we have achieved so far. Honeywell is committed to remaining on schedule to complete a sustainable Onondaga Lake remedy that protects human health and the environment, diversifies and enhances habitat, and helps restore a valuable recreational and ecological resource for this community."

Robert Chinery, NYSDOH Center for Environmental Health said: "The New York State Department of Health concurs with the selected remedy chosen by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the United States Environmental Protection Agency to remediate the Onondaga Lake Superfund site. As part of the remediation effort, DOH will continue to assist NYSDEC and USEPA with the technical review of documents related to the remedial design, as well as the monitoring procedures established to protect public health and the quality of life for the communities surrounding the dredging operations and the Sediment Consolidation Area. DOH's fishing advisories for Onondaga Lake will remain in effect for the foreseeable future and will continue to be evaluated on an annual basis."

Assemblyman William Magnarelli said, "Congratulations to the DEC, EPA and Honeywell for advancing this project to construction. The environmental improvements together with the hundreds of local jobs created by this project are two of the many community benefits resulting from the cleanup of Onondaga Lake."

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney said, "This is a critical year in the cleanup of Onondaga Lake; thank you and congratulations to Honeywell's CEO David Cote and his entire team for their leadership and partnership to ensure that Onondaga Lake is a community asset for generations to come."

SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry President Neil Murphy said, "I congratulate Honeywell, New York State DEC and all the partners for bringing this $451M Onondaga Lake sediment removal project to its initiation and execution. This is a legacy project which will serve many generations of Central New Yorkers and will improve one of our greatest assets, Onondaga Lake. ESF is very pleased to have helped in a small way to contribute to this extraordinary restoration program."

Becky Corbin, Chair of the Onondaga Lake Community Participation Working Group said, "The CPWG is thrilled that dredging is about to begin. It will mean so much for the public to have such a visible sign of the progress in cleaning up the lake. This is a critical step in improving the natural resource and recreational value of Onondaga Lake."