After years of ineffective remediation efforts, the Onondaga Nation is calling for an overhaul of the strategy that is currently being implemented to clean Onondaga Lake.
According to WAER.org, Onondaga Nation leaders recently made a trip to the lake to voice their criticism of how the cleanup was being handled.
One recent failure in the cleanup was particularly concerning for the nation. While cleanup crews were capping contaminated sediments at the bottom of the lake, two additional polluted areas were exposed.
When this capping soil was shifted, multiple pollutants were uncovered from the depths of the lake, including polychlorinated biphenyls, mercury, and other dangerous toxins. The Nation’s attorney, Alma Lowry, was displeased with this apparent negligence.
“Just over the hill there is Waste spreads 1-through-8, which has just been re-opened to the public, with a lovely new amphitheater inviting people to use it. That site is also a contaminated site and people who use that site are being protected, again, by a cap,” said Lowry.
There are currently over 147 million people around the world who do not have access to clean water. Americans have assumed for years that this problem was specific to underdeveloped countries, but the recent water crisis in Flint, MI, has exposed the need for enhanced vigilance regarding water quality in the U.S.
CNN recently reported on the crisis in Flint, where city officials assured residents that the water was safe for years before the problem became too severe too ignore. Now, the water coming from taps in Flint is brown, undrinkable, and laden with dangerous contaminants.
Onondaga Lake’s pollution may not be at the same level as Flint’s water system, but there are several parallels between the two situations. Lowry added that the Nation is being deceived by water officials who boast false progress and fail to address the true magnitude of the issue.
“The public is repeatedly told that the lake is being restored, that we’re almost done, that we’ve come to the end of the remediation, almost. We’re really just beginning; this is phase one of the remediation, the capping and dredging,” said Lowry.
“We’re concerned about the propaganda that’s put out there. They come out there and they had a swimming exhibition, and they said the lake is clean. Even Governor Cuomo was talking about the clean lake, and it’s just not true,” she added.
Honeywell, the company that was required to clean up the lake in 2005, is the primary target of the Nation’s frustration. They performed a dredging operation from 2012 to 2014, and the Nation still maintains that the Onondaga Lake isn’t close to being pollution-free.
While the Nation has adequately expressed its disdain with the cleanup process thus far, it remains to be seen if any positive changes will come from their public indictment of Honeywell’s strategies.