Onondaga Nation objects to making Lake smaller
Syracuse Post Standard
By Delen Goldberg
This week, giant drills will plunge dozens of feet into the bottom of Onondaga Lake to bore huge holes in the lake floor.
Thursday, workers will begin filling the holes with steel pilings, the first step in Honeywell International’s plan to build a barrier wall in the lake.
The underground wall will be 1.5 miles long, sit 30 to 50 feet deep, depending on the depth of the water, and in certain sections, snake up to 50 feet into the lake from the original shore creating a new shoreline. It is designed to block contaminated groundwater from seeping into the lake from polluted properties in Solvay and Geddes that once were part of the Allied
Portions of the lake will be filled with sand and gravel to create a new, artificial shoreline that follows the line of the barrier wall. The project will shrink the size of the 3,000-acre lake by about 2 acres, state Department of Environmental Conservation staffers said.
Some environmental advocates criticize the placement of the wall.
By shrinking the lake which already has lost 40 percent of its volume to pollution state and Honeywell officials are doing more harm than good, said Joseph Heath, lawyer for the Onondaga Nation.
“To fill in another 6 million gallons is a step in the wrong direction,” said Heath. “Who knows how many more corners they will slice off?”
The barrier wall project marks one phase of Honeywell’s $451 million plan to clean up toxic waste from Onondaga Lake. Company and state officials last week signed a legal order that commits Honeywell to the cleanup.
In initial plans presented last summer, Honeywell and the DEC proposed to build the steel barrier wall on dry land next to Interstate 690. But scientists and engineers quickly discovered flaws in that plan, DEC officials said.
Underground utility wires and a sewer pipeline near the lake’s shoreline prevent the construction of a barrier wall on that land.
Ken Lynch, regional director for the DEC, said engineers also became concerned about the stability of Interstate 690 and the causeway that runs parallel to it. Dredging, and construction of the barrier wall, could compromise the highways’ structure and cause them to weaken and crumble.
The barrier wall comprised of thousands of square feet of interlocking steel panels will be built in several phases, Honeywell officials said. Half of the wall should be up by the end of the year, according to the DEC. Officials hope to build remaining portions of the wall by 2007. Honeywell’s entire lake cleanup is expected to take nine years.
Once the barrier wall is up, 12-foot-deep trenches will capture groundwater contaminated with mercury, cholorobenzene and other chemicals. Pumps will send the water to a treatment plant at Willis Avenue and State Fair Boulevard, where up to 200,000 gallons will be cleaned each day. Pipelines will return the purified water back into the lake.
Honeywell officials said crews will monitor groundwater flow to see if the barrier wall is working.
While most environmental advocates acknowledge the need for a barrier wall, many question placing the wall inside the lake.
“It is a disappointment to us that they haven’t paid attention to any of the comments that we’ve made,” said Jeanne Shenandoah, of the Onondaga Nation. “Putting the wall into the lake like that, I don’t think it’s going to make things any better.”
Filling in sections of it, Shenandoah said, takes a toll not only on fish and wildlife, but on members of the Onondaga Nation who consider the lake sacred.
“We’re thinking about everybody that lives in the area,” she said. “This affects everyone, not just us.”
Lynch sees the situation differently.
“We have the opportunity to redesign a shoreline,” he said.
DEC officials said they hope to eventually replace some of the water lost to the barrier wall by expanding the lake. Although no plans are in place yet, there are places where the shoreline could be expanded, Lynch said.
Throughout the process, the DEC plans to seek suggestions from the public on how to improve the lake’s new shores. Possibilities include creating trails, green spaces and new wildlife habitats.
“The land around the lake is 90 percent publicly owned, so there are lots of possibilities,” Lynch said. “The goal is full enjoyment of the lake.”
Delen Goldberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 470-2274