Updated 05/31/2012 05:57 PM
Onondaga Lake dredging to begin soon
Could Onondaga Lake ever be swimmable and drinkable again? DEC officials say yes and that likelihood could be sooner than you think. They, along with Honeywell, announced that dredging and capping the lake bottom will begin on schedule in just a few weeks. Our Katie Gibas tells us what the cleanup will entail and what it will mean for the lake's future.
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OONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. -- After decades of working to clean up Onondaga Lake, the part that everyone's been waiting for is finally here. Even though progress has been made to clean the lake over the years, the dredging that's expected to make the biggest difference is on schedule and about to begin.
"It hasn't been usable and now it's making a huge comeback and it's going to be important for ecological reasons and for economic reasons as well. It's just a win-win for all. It's huge," said Joseph Martens, DEC Commissioner.
Kate Adams, a Honeywell Senior VP and General Council, added, "This has been the culmination of 20 years of effort on the part of literally hundreds and hundreds of individuals."
The project will dredge 185 acres of the lake and cap another 417 acres. That's about 20 percent of the lake. The total cost is $415 million.
"What they've done is identified the hottest spots in the lake where the contamination is the highest. From a public health point of view, it will be a huge step. It may not seem like a lot. It's still a huge area and one of the biggest projects in the country," said Martens.
Adams added, "The remedy that's been designed is scientifically extremely advanced. It's going to be returned to the conditions, legislators want it returned to and to comply with the law."
Dredging will be at full capacity by midsummer and it's expected to last four to five years. The sediment that's at the bottom of the lake will be dredged up through a closed system. It will then be transported in double walled pipes to wastebed 13 in Camillus. The water that's removed from that process will be treated at two facilities and then returned to the lake.
"Swimmable is realistic. And with water treatment, drinkable will be feasible also. I don't know if you'll ever be able to drink the water out of this lake untreated. You can't do that in many places these days. But both of those goals ultimately are achievable and we're a long way to those goals now," said Martens.
Right now, Honeywell is testing all the dredging equipment and sediment removal should begin in a couple weeks.
An open house and public information meeting will be held Thursday, June 14th at the Art and Home Center at the New York State Fairgrounds. The open house starts at 5 p.m. The meeting starts at 6 p.m.