Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
New York State Governor
Albany, NY 12224
Dear Governor Cuomo:
My name is __ and I live at __. I write today because ____.
I respectfully write to request that you adopt without any further delay a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) comprehensive watershed clean up plan for Cayuga Lake that was mandated as a "high priority" circa 2004. A TMDL is essential to end severe water quality impairments which threaten the drinking water supplied to more than 30,000 residents.
This request is echoed by more than 1,400 signatories to a detailed: Coalition Letter Which Requests That Governor Cuomo Take Urgent Action to Eliminate Water Quality Impairments That Cause Cyanobacteria Harmful Algal Blooms Across New York State
Year after year during your entire tenure of Governor, you failed to adopt this critically important water pollution remediation plan. As a result, Cayuga Lake's water quality impairments now include Harmful Algal Blooms, salt mining concerns, untreated discharge of Soluble Reactive Phosphorus wastewater and watershed contamination hazards which may have progressed to the point of potentially causing irreversible harm to Cayuga Lake.
The coalition letter requests that youi require a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment to be conducted of the Cayuga Lake Watershed in order to identify and prioritize all pollution sources for clean up, including a wide variety of toxic sites that release chemical contamination into Cayuga Lake, notably Ithaca Gun/Ithaca Falls/Ithaca Falls Island Overlook, Morse Chain and Nate's Floral Estates.
To date, you have neither conducted the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment nor cleaned up any of those toxic hazards.
I also requested that you ask the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a comprehensive remediation of the Ithaca Gun/Ithaca Falls Gorge Trail/Ithaca Falls Island Overlook sites by including those heavily contaminated areas in the National Priority List for Federal Superfund clean up.
I bring to your attention a spectrum of pollution concerns documented in the New York State Priority Waterbody List profile for Southern Cayuga Lake which concluded that, "Public water supply for this portion of Cayuga Lake is assessed as threatened."
See: Cayuga Lake - Southern End - NYSDEC WI/PWL Fact Sheet
Your failure to resolve similar long-standing water pollution threats in nearby Seneca Lake resulted in a boil-water order on August 16, 2018 which cancelled a major concert expected to be attended by more than 30,000 people.
In the aftermath of that economic and environmental disaster, I request that you take immediate action to addressing the following critical concerns in order to make sure that Cayuga Lake does not suffer a similar drinking water crisis.
Cayuga Lake is included in the national 303(d) registry of impaired waters. A "high priority" Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) comprehensive watershed clean up plan has been delayed since 2004. It is simply baffling why no TMDL has been proposed to resolve Cayuga Lake's water pollution hazards, including Harmful Algal Blooms which have been confirmed for multiple years in a row.
In the aftermath of massive 2017 HAB problems all over New York, you promised to provide an individualized plan to resolve Cayuga Lake's water quality impairments, but your recently announced HAB Action Plan for the lake is shockingly inadequate. It is a hodge podge that utterly fails to identify water pollution sources in the watershed on a comprehensive basis and provides no means to curtail those sources.
With all due respect, your on-going failure to adopt a TMDL to resolve Cayuga Lake's water pollution hazards is inexcusable, inexplicable and unacceptable.
Cornell's Lake Source Cooling (LSC) facility was granted an improper discharge permit approximately 20 years ago to use cold water containing Soluble Reactive Phosphorus drawn from the bottom of Cayuga Lake at a depth of 250 feet to air condition the Cornell Campus. When this untreated water is dumped into Cayuga Lake, the phosphorus promotes the growth of algae and weeds.
Cornell's Before-After-Control-Impact (BACI) study confirmed a statistically significant increase in chlorophyll a after LSC began operation. Yet the untreated discharge of Soluble Reactive Phosphorus continues to exacerbate HABs and weed infestations in the area of the lake that has long exceeded New York's narrative standard for phosphorus: "None in amounts that result in the growths of algae, weeds and slimes that will impair the waters for their best usages."
See: CLEAN UP CAYUGA LAKE NOW
The LSC Environmental Impact Statement documents that cyanobacteria which cause HABs are increasingly present in Cayuga Lake during the warm weather months when air conditioning is at maximum use. This is when the discharge of Soluble Reactive Phosphorus can promote the growth of HABs.
See: Lake Source Cooling EIS, Annual Succession of the Phytoplankton Community
The EIS documents that the Soluble Reactive Phosphorus plume extends through the area where drinking water is drawn for the Bolton Point system that supplies approximately 30,000 local residents.
See: Lake Source Cooling Project DEIS - Approximate Extent of Soluble Reactive Phosphorus Plume in August, September, and October
It is imperative that LSC's phosphorus discharge be eliminated either by extending the facility's discharge pipe into deeper waters "off the shelf" in order to return the phosphorus to the bottom of the lake or by treating the effluent discharge to remove the phosphorus.
If New York fails to halt this untreated discharge of SRP as part of any TMDL to resolve Cayuga Lake's widespread HABs and water quality impairments, it would represent a shocking abdication of regulatory authority that would warrant revocation of the state's "primacy" authority to oversee the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit program on behalf of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency.
No Permit Must Be Granted to Allow Continued Salt Mining Under Cayuga Lake
You have received a coalition letter with more than 700 signatories which requests that no general mining permit be granted to allow continued salt mining under Cayuga Lake. Instead, mining activities must be moved to under dry land in order to safeguard water quality.
See: Coalition Letter Which Requests That Governor Cuomo Prohibit Issuance of State Permits/Authorizations for Salt Mining Under Cayuga Lake and Require a Transition to Salt Mining Only Under Dry Land
When your administration recently denied a permit for a proposed Liquefied Petroleum Gas storage facility in abandoned salt mine caverns adjoining Seneca Lake, the decision stated:
"The record demonstrates that the impacts of this project on the character of the local and regional community, including but not limited to the environmental setting and sensitivity of the Finger Lakes area and the local and regional economic engines (e.g., wine, agricultural and tourism industries), are significant and adverse and the project does not avoid or minimize those impacts to the maximum extent practicable. Furthermore, the significant adverse impacts on community character are not outweighed or balanced by social, economic or other considerations, and cannot be avoided or minimized to the maximum extent practicable by the proposed mitigation measures."
This same rationale must be used to deny a general mining permit for the proposed expansion of a massive salt mine directly under Cayuga Lake. You have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to phase out existing mining activities under the lake in order to make sure that future mining activities operate under dry land.
This is the only way to end the salt mining water pollution concerns reported in Cayuga Lake.
Arguably the most important responsibility that you bear as New York's governor is the protection of public health. Given that mandate, I request that you take urgent action to fulfill the requests specified in this letter given that New York State has determined that, "Public water supply for this portion of Cayuga Lake [Southern End] is assessed as threatened."
I trust that you will find my request self-explanatory, but please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or suggestions.
Thank you for your consideration.
cc: Honorable Basil Seggos
Honorable Howard Zucker, M.D.