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Source: The Syracuse Post-Standard

Camillus residents vow to block storage plan for Onondaga Lake sediment


Posted: February 4, 2010
Originally Published: February 3, 2010

Camillus, NY -- State officials will continue with plans to dredge contaminated sediment from the bottom of Onondaga Lake and store it at an old waste disposal site in Camillus despite opposition from residents living nearby and a vote Jan. 26 by the town board.

“The residents have decided to do whatever it takes,” said Tim Pieper, who lives in the Golden Meadows development. “We’re not going to give up.” Golden Meadows, with more than 120 homes, is about 4,500 feet from the sediment storage area, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Pieper said residents have not decided whether to go to court to block the storage plan.

Another Golden Meadows resident, Matt Licameli, said the development is a great place to raise a family, but having the sediment stored so near is a concern. “I wouldn’t have built here if I had known about it,” he said.

Licameli, one of the last people to move into the development, bought his house in 2007. He said residents of the development have been meeting frequently since they learned of the storage plan.

The dredging is part of the overall plan to clean up Onondaga Lake, which for decades served as a dumping ground for raw municipal sewage and industrial wastes. The sediment is contaminated with mercury, PCBs and other toxic chemicals.

DEC picked Wastebed 13, on former AlliedSignal property on Airport Road, in the fall of 2006 after looking at 16 other possible sites, Regional Director Ken Lynch said this week. The agency has held several public meetings since then to talk about the lake cleanup and its plans for the wastebed. “It’s been a long process,” Lynch said. “It was a very difficult decision, but we’re very confident this site is the best site for disposal.”

He said the storage area is still being designed and his agency is willing to “tweak” the design to take into account concerns raised by residents and the town. But unless someone comes up with a better alternative, the DEC will proceed with the plan to store the sediment removed from the lake at the wastebed. Dredging is expected to start in 2012 and last four years.

“At this point, we don’t believe there are better alternatives to Wastebed 13. ... Does that mean we will close our eyes to all alternatives? No. If somebody produces a viable alternative that we haven’t looked at, we will look at it,” he said.

Camillus Ward 2 Councilor Mark Kolinski said he doesn’t know if the town can block the DEC storage plan, but he wouldn’t be surprised if the matter ended up in court. “I’m sure if you talk to any of the neighbors living in that area, they are opposing this unanimously and I would have to think there’s a lawsuit down the road,” he said.

Kolinski said he couldn’t speak for the town board, but he hopes the board will back the residents.

Nobody is questioning whether the lake should be cleaned up, he said, just what will happen with the dredged material. He wants the material taken to a toxic waste treatment facility, noting that sludge being dredged from the Hudson River is being shipped by rail to Texas.

Pieper said residents don’t think the DEC studied alternatives to the storage, such as shipping the sediment by rail. There’s a rail line 150 yards from the lake, he said.

Lynch said the DEC will monitor air and water quality during the dredging and storage. Nearby residents have said they fear the sediment will ultimately pollute the air and contaminate ground water.

Honeywell International, which inherited cleanup responsibility when it bought AlliedSignal in 1999, will pay an estimated $451 million for the project. Honeywell agreed to the cleanup in a consent decree with the DEC now on file in U.S. District Court. Under the consent decree, Honeywell will cap some of the lake bottom, leaving contaminated material in the lake, and dredge other parts of the lake.

Lynch said a volunteer citizen group, the Community Participation Working Group, was formed as part of the consent decree to allow the public input to lake cleanup planning. The citizen group meets from 4 to 6 p.m. today in the Martha Eddy Room at the state fairgrounds in Geddes. Dereth Glance, executive program director of the Citizen Campaign for the Environment, is chairwoman of the citizen group.

“We aren’t Honeywell. We aren’t DEC,” she said. “We are 13 people who live in Onondaga County .. who care about Onondaga Lake and the people.”

How to get involved

4 to 6 p.m. today: The Community Participation Working Group, set up under the court-approved lake cleanup consent order, meets in the Martha Eddy Room at the state fairgrounds in Geddes.

7 p.m. Feb. 11: The Camillus Town Board has invited representatives from the DEC and Honeywell to meet with the board in the town offices on West Genesee Street.

The petition: A group of residents living in the Golden Meadows development have started an online petition asking the state to dispose of the material dredged from the bottom of Onondaga Lake in a disposal facility. The petition is at www.thepetitionsite.com/1/safe-alternative-to-the-use-of. In the first two weeks, nearly 900 people put their names on the petition. The group hopes to collect 10,000 names.

Contact John Stith at jstith@syracuse.com or at 251-5718.