Empowering Communities, Advocating Solutions


Imagre of industry on Onondaga Lake.

Onondaga Lake

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Onondaga Lake, located on the northwest side of Syracuse, NY, is improving after a century of abuse. Great strides in water quality improvements have been made as a result of action required under the Clean Water Act and Superfund by Onondaga County and Honeywell International, respectively. CCE is active in efforts to improve overall water quality of Onondaga Lake and engage the Onondaga Lake watershed community on opportunities to help protect Onondaga Lake. Onondaga Lake is a unique treasure to the Syracuse and Onondaga County community. The largely undeveloped the waterfront is owned by the public and restoration provides opportunities to reclaim this as a community asset.

CCE was involved in working with the community to make the transition from the federally legislated Onondaga Lake Partnership group to the current Onondaga Lake Watershed Partnership group. CCE currently sits on this committee and the outreach sub-committee.

Toxic Pollution Cleanup

As part of the Superfund process, New York State issued its Record of Decision (ROD) for cleanup in 2005. Honeywell International concluded its dredging process in 2014, and plans to complete capping and habitat restoration by 2016. The Trustees (Onondaga Nation, NYS DEC, US Fish & Wildlife) are working to determine how remediation money can be spent around Onondaga Lake to improve wildlife habitat and public access.

Image pointing to cleanup and resoration of Onondaga Lake.

Hope Returns to Onondaga Lake

Photo courtesy of The University Of the State of New York / New York State Education Department / Office of Cultural Education

Sewage Pollution and Green Infrastructure

Onondaga County is actively implementing green infrastructure solutions to reduce sewer overflows and improve Onondaga Lake water quality. The County’s innovative Save the Rain program is targeting key sewersheds and implementing a suite of smart, green, and clean stormwater management solutions. CCE was instrumental in creating the outreach and education component of the County's Save the Rain program. Get more information about the County's Save the Rain program and notices of sewer overflows.


Sacred waters to the Onondaga Nation, Onondaga Lake is a symbol of peace and democracy, hosting the historic gathering of Native American nations to plant the tree of peace - to symbolize the end of war, killing and violence and form the Confederacy, or Haudenosaunee.

Once a celebrated resort area, Onondaga Lake was fouled by a legacy of industrial chemical and municipal sewage contamination that resulted on bans on fishing and swimming. Inadequate sewage treatment led to a ban on swimming in 1940. Fishing was banned in 1970 because of industrial mercury contamination. The fishing ban prompted the New York State Attorney General to sue Allied Chemical Corp. (later known as AlliedSignal, which is present-day Honeywell) to stop mercury dumping, which was calculated to be 22 pounds of mercury per day. In 1995, Onondaga Lake was added to the Federal Superfund National Priority List.

In 1992, AlliedSignal, now known as Honeywell, entered into a consent decree with the State of New York to initiate the Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study for Onondaga Lake. Fourteen years later, Honeywell completed the Feasibility Study and presented its findings to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). This study documented the extent of pollution throughout the Lake and identified key “hot spots,” where toxic contamination was found as deep at 27 feet below the sediment.

Updated by seckel 8/27/15