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Post date: October 8 2013

A.G. Schneiderman & Department Of Environmental Conservation Announce Funding To Improve Onondaga Lake Water Quality

Court Agrees To Direct Environmental Penalties Toward Local Storm Water Projects In Syracuse And Solvay Using “Green Infrastructure”

Schneiderman: Creating Local Jobs To Reduce Pollution Is An Integral Part Of The Onondaga Lake Success Story

SYRACUSE – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced an agreement among his office, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the Atlantic States Legal Foundation, and Onondaga County that directs environmental penalty funds toward projects to reduce sewage overflows to Onondaga Lake and its tributaries. The funds originate from a 1996 court order against Onondaga County related to water quality violations at its Metropolitan Syracuse Wastewater Treatment Facility.

Today’s agreement identifies two projects to receive funding – the Green Infrastructure Demonstration Project in the Near Westside neighborhood of Syracuse, and the Village of Solvay Erosion and Sediment Control Project. Both projects will enhance the county’s ongoing work to reduce sewage overflows and improve water quality in Onondaga Lake and its tributaries.

“Just a few decades ago, Onondaga Lake was considered by some to be the most polluted water body in the country. But its recovery since then has been nothing short of remarkable,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Today, through the cooperation of State agencies and local government, water quality is improving, the ecosystem is recovering, and people are once again embracing the lake as an economic, recreational, and cultural treasure.”

"The green infrastructure projects announced today fit perfectly with Onondaga County's ambitious, ongoing program to capture and treat polluted runoff, dramatically reduce combined sewer overflows, limit localized flooding, recharge aquifers and beautify the urban landscape," said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. "Governor Cuomo's NYS 2100 Commission strongly promotes the use of green infrastructure, and the collaborative partnership to clean up Onondaga Lake is a national model that demonstrates how green infrastructure can be part of an effective strategy to restore a valued water body that has suffered extensive contamination."

"We feel it is important to showcase what green infrastructure actually is, and how it works," said Samuel H. Sage, President of Atlantic States Legal Foundation. "Our demonstration projects on the Near West Side, in particular, will provide opportunities for local citizens to see and experience this technology firsthand, and hopefully better understand what's going on city-wide with stormwater abatement."

“Our community has been investing for many years in the cleanup of Onondaga Lake – and we are seeing tremendous results,” said Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney. “Thank you to Attorney General Schneiderman for investing these funds in projects which support the lake.”

The Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board will implement the projects under a contract with the DEC.

The Green Infrastructure Demonstration Project being funded through the agreement announced today will take place in the vicinity of West Onondaga Street in Syracuse’s Near Westside. When heavy rains produce excess storm water in this area, it overwhelms the sewage collection system and results in untreated sewage overflows into Onondaga Creek, a tributary of Onondaga Lake. After siting and design work, the funds will go toward disconnecting downspouts and installing rain barrels to redirect storm water away from the sewer system, and planting trees, constructing rain gardens, and installing porous pavement to allow rainwater to percolate directly into the ground. Once constructed, the projects will be monitored to gauge their effectiveness, and educational signs, tours, and other outreach efforts will be conducted. The total project costs are estimated at $250,000.

The Village of Solvay Erosion and Sediment Control Project being funded through the agreement announced today will take place on the 3.2-acre site of the Solvay Youth Center, which is adjacent to the Solvay Village and Geddes Town offices on Woods Avenue. A hill in the rear of the building is severely eroding, causing sediment and phosphorous to discharge into Harbor Brook and into Onondaga Lake. The funding will be used to help stabilize and terrace the eroding slope, install storm water controls to better manage runoff, and plant shrubs and grass to keep soil in place. The total project costs are estimated at $93,505.

The projects announced today were approved by the U.S. District Court (Northern District – Syracuse) by Order and Stipulation and can be accessed here.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Norman Spiegel and Scientist John Davis of the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg and First Deputy for Affirmative Litigation Janet Sabel.