The METRO plant was upgraded in 2004 with new, advanced treatments for phosphorus, ammonia, and a UV filter. Water quality quickly improved, according to Matthew Millea, Deputy County Executive for Physical Services.
“We used to be at 120 micrograms per liter [of phosphorus], and that was around 1987, which was really the peak of the nutrient loading into the lake from the waste-water treatment facility. By 2008, we had exceeded the court ordered goal of falling below 20 micrograms per liter,” Millea said.
Onondaga County was not solely responsible for the pollution of Onondaga Lake. As we discussed last week, Syracuse’s chemical industry, namely AlliedSignal (now Honeywell International, Inc.), which had thrived throughout the 1900s, had desecrated the lake and surrounding areas with hazardous chemicals such as mercury, pesticides, heavy metals, and other contaminants that affected fish, wildlife and the natural habitat.
In 1989, the state of New York sued AlliedSignal to pay for the damages in and around the lake, and cleanup the hazardous materials. The company began investigating cleanup options in 1992.
In December, 1994, Onondaga Lake was identified as a federal Superfund site, giving the EPA the power to enforce remediation, and oversee the cleanup. AlliedSignal would be responsible for the cost of the cleanup, as determined by the EPA.
For 12 years, AlliedSignal, who merged with Honeywell International, Inc. in 1999, studied possible remediation plans and finally submitted a feasibility study in 2004 to the EPA and New York state DEC, who had been given the lead on the Onondaga Lake cleanup project by the EPA.
The feasibility study proposed a range of remediation possibilities from doing nothing to dredging and capping the most of the lake. Ken Lynch is the NYSDEC regional director for region 7, which includes Onondaga County. He was instrumental in the development of the proposed plan.