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Built to last? Will barrier wall stand the test of time?

The Onondaga Nation reveres the lake as a sacred site. In early 2005, the nation filed land claim litigation against the state and Honeywell (among other parties) to gain a voice in the lake cleanup.

Honeywell's plans do not include dredging the entire lake bottom because doing so would stir up and disperse the pollutants that are settled within the sediment. In addition to making the water quality worse, the approach would significantly prolong the time frame for cleaning up the lake, according to promotional literature issued by the company in September 2005.

"The wall is questionable and so are caps. All caps fail. A cap has never been in place longer than 10 years," Heath said. "Eighty to 90 percent of the chemicals are going to remain in the lake bottom."

The barrier wall proposed for Onondaga Lake is made up of steel sheet piling. But according to a scientist from the Onondaga Environmental Institute, which has been working on the cleanup of Onondaga Creek, steel rots, and the wall won't last forever.

"My concern is that the wall won't last forever," said Don Hughes, the OEI scientist. "They are thinking we'll pump and then we won't have to worry about it. Unless you get the contaminants out it's not good enough."

Hughes is also worried that contamination will be left on site behind the wall.

"Unless there is an impervious layer at the bottom of the lake to stop the contaminants from seeping downward, they will continue to drop, possibly underneath the barrier wall," Hughes said. "It may not happen right away, but 20 or 30 years from now there is a possibility the contaminants could seep underneath the wall."

But proponents of the plan say that the wall is sturdy and that a long-term monitoring process will take place after the project is complete to prevent future problems.

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