Letter to the Editor:
Onondaga Lake still has a long way to go before it can be considered even halfway cleaned up (“ESF Scientists Show Progress in Onondaga Lake Cleanup,” Oct. 4; and “Celebrating Onondaga Lake’s Halfway Point,” Oct. 6). Just because half of the $460 million in taxpayer monies earmarked for lake cleanup projects has been spent does not mean the lake is 50 percent cleaner, as the articles imply.
All of the money spent so far has focused on improving Metro’s control of waste chemicals, one of the many types of pollutants in Onondaga Lake, and the easiest to control. We are encouraged by the successes of Metro. Keeping substances like ammonia and phosphorus out of the waters will help foster the well-being of fish and wildlife that live within the lake.
Yet there are still thousands of pounds of deadly toxins like mercury, PCBs and dioxins on the lake bottom. And dozens of pounds of these toxins continue to leech into the lake from nine surrounding Superfund sites daily.
Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) leaders were instructed by the Peacemaker to be people of vision, and to make every decision on behalf of the seventh generation to come; to have compassion and love for those generations yet unborn. This is why this lake must be cleaned up completely. How can we have compassion for future generations and at the same time leave Onondaga Lake, a sacred lake, as a toxic stew that we know will harm them?
That’s what the official “cleanup” will do. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, it would cost $2.3 billion to truly clean the lake bottom and that does not include the cost of cleaning up the nine surrounding Superfund sites that leech poisons into the lake daily. The official “cleanup” plan that is moving forward only calls for $450 million of Honeywell’s money to be spent, None of that money has yet been spent, and none of the lake-bottom cleanup has yet begun.
So how can it now be claimed that the lake is half way cleaned? What are the criteria for this? We all know you cannot swim in the lake, you cannot drink the lake waters, and you cannot eat fish from the lake. And the “cleanup” plan sets no goals or guidelines for when you can do any of those things (which is against the federal Clean Water Act and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s own regulations). We are surprised and disappointed that these misleading statements are being made.
We are hopeful that the people of Central New York and their leaders will see that the complete cleanup of Onondaga Lake is essential to our ability to survive in this area and protect our quality of life, Even though you are in your boat and we in our canoe, we share the same River of Life; what befalls me, befalls you. If we do not change this plan, downstream in this River of Life, our children will pay for our selfishness, our greed and our lack of vision.
Council of Chiefs Onondaga Nation