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Remove the Toxic “Black Goo”: Onondaga Lake Needs a Better Future!

This petition had 417 supporters


People should be able to drink the water, eat the fish, swim, and walk Onondaga Lake’s shores without worry.  We want our children to be able to enjoy Onondaga Lake without health concerns.  The toxic “black goo” and other industrial waste being left around and at the bottom of the lake prevents this future, while Honeywell is spending millions to convince the public they've done enough to clean up the lake. We want a better future for Onondaga Lake. 

Onondaga Lake, near Syracuse, NY, was once beautiful and healthy. It is culturally and spiritually important to the Haudenosaunee (also known as the Iroquois or Six Nations): their confederacy was founded on its shores over 1000 years ago. The lake later became home to resorts and a robust fishery that provided the delicacy of Onondaga Lake whitefish to expensive restaurants in NYC. It was a desirable place to be.


Pollution and Desecration of Onondaga Lake

More than 165,000 lbs of mercury and millions of tons of industrial waste were dumped into and around the lake by Solvay Process and Allied Chemical, now Honeywell International, over the past 100 years. In 1994 “the most polluted lake in the country” was declared a Superfund site.

However, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) is letting Honeywell off the hook. It has routinely picked remedies, especially for the lake bottom, that leave most of the waste in place. Mercury, hexachlorobenzene, PCBs, dioxins, furans, PAHs, etc. are being left in and around the lake, relying on barriers and systems that must remain fully operational, forever, in order to contain the waste.

Honeywell International earned $4.7 billion in profits last year alone - they can afford to clean up the lake! The estimated cost to fully dredge the lake bottom is $2.6 billion. Yet, the NYSDEC chose a plan that only costs Honeywell $451 million, effectively condemning Onondaga Lake to a future as an unlined hazardous waste landfill.  


Current “Remedy” Is Already Failing

Over 9.5 million cubic yards of waste and contamination remain at the bottom of the lake. The cap over some areas has already failed three times since installation began in 2011. The public was not told these failures had occurred until recently. The unstable nature of the “black goo” in areas of the bottom of the lake is to blame, yet there are no plans for further dredging at this time. The NYSDEC is currently evaluating what further work to require of Honeywell.  

People Are Eating Toxic Fish

The current remedy does not do enough to protect human health or the environment. Contaminated sediments exposed on the lake bottom allow mercury, PCBs, and dioxins to enter the food chain. People, particularly Syracuse's poor, are regularly eating contaminated fish from Onondaga Lake. There are no fish consumption warning signs on the shore.


A Better Future for Onondaga Lake

The Onondaga Nation has a clear vision for the future of Onondaga Lake: to be able to drink the water, eat the fish regularly, and swim in the lake without worry, and where habitat exists so all may thrive. These are the ways we are meant to interact with lakes.

To get there, more waste needs to be removed: the “black goo” is demonstrably a threat to the structural stability of the lake bottom remedy. There needs to be greater public disclosure of problems and independent monitoring of the remedy, and meaningful financial assurances.  We demand Honeywell put up a performance bond to maintain the engineered solutions their remedy depends upon in perpetuity, and fund the full cleanup of the lake when their remedy fails, whether it’s next year or in 999 years.

Most immediately, until the fish are safe to eat for women and children, there need to be clearly posted warnings not to eat the fish in multiple languages.

Finally, we need federal, state, and local governments to incorporate and implement the advice of the Onondaga Nation.  They have been right about the remedy from the start.



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