Honeywell has announced that after five years of work, the company will finally finish its cleanup of Onondaga Lake by the end of this month.
Allied, which acquired Honeywell in 1999 and changed its name accordingly, dumped approximately 165,000 pounds of mercury into Onondaga Lake from 1946 to 1970. The New York State Department of Conservation ordered Honeywell to take responsibility for the lake cleanup back in 2006. In 2014, the company finished dredging the bottom of the lake, 2.2 million cubic yards of ground in all, and in 2016, they capped 475 acres of lake bottom. They are expected to complete the restoration of 90 acres of wetlands and addition of underwater rock structures this month.
The company will monitor the cap through 2026, which will include the testing of plants, water, plankton, and fish tissue. They will also continue to add nitrate to the lake bottom to reduce mercury levels, which were found to be so toxic in 2014 that experts estimated 20% of shore bird chicks would not survive as a result. While using an electrodeionization system can provide consistent water purification in certain applications, that’s proven not to be an option in instances liike these.
Although swimming is the fourth most popular activity in the United States, residents would do well to stay out of Onondaga waters for now — particularly after last month, when the problematic Ley Creek Pipe burst yet again, dumping 4.5 million gallons of raw sewage and rain water into the lake.
Honeywell has received criticism for their efforts. The Onondaga Nation has made it known that they believe that their clean-up has been more of a cover-up of toxic chemicals, a sentiment echoed by a former EPA regional director who said that beneath the sand caps lies nearly 10 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment.
In addition to the final stages of cleanup and monitoring, Honeywell is also responsible for building trails, fishing piers, and additional wildlife habitats as part of a partnership with the federal government.
In 2006, the estimated cost of cleanup was around $451 million, but Honeywell has declined to discuss the actual costs of the efforts.