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Walter Hang's Comments on DEC's Draft 2014 303(d) Listing for Southern Cayuga Lake


I write respectfully to request that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) reject its proposed elimination of the pathogens impairment for Southern Cayuga Lake in its draft 2014 303(d) listing.

See Attachment One:

As we discussed, I also request that you waive the deadline for submitting comments and review my submission as part of your efforts to finalize your 2014 303(d) listing.

Pathogens Water Quality Impairment Must be Maintained Without Revision

For reasons that I am pleased to document, I request that the existing 303(d) pathogens impairment due to non-point sources and municipal discharges be maintained without revision.

As you will see from photos as well as a wide variety of documents attached herein, water quality is shockingly polluted in Stewart Park and reportedly exceeds applicable standards for pathogens, phosphorus and turbidity. That is why boating and public bathing are publicly banned from that lovely shore area.

Additional photos reveal equally extensive water quality hazards along the entire shore of the Southeastern corner of Cayuga Lake.


Site-Specific, Peer-Reviewed Study Required to Support Eliminating Pathogen Impairment

Public bathing at Stewart Park was reportedly prohibited in the early 1960s due to turbidity hazards that resulted in the drowning death of a child. Since then a wide range of other water quality impairments have been reported. Public bathing remains prohibited in Stewart Park.

The presence of massive water quality impairments in that area due to high pathogen concentrations as well as infestations of aquatic weeds and algae cannot be disputed. The Stewart Park shoreline extends more than 2,800 feet. Unless a well-conducted, site-specific, peer-reviewed study documents that no water quality standards for pathogens are exceeded for successive years, it is inconceivable that DEC would consider eliminating that impairment from its 2014 303(d) listing.

Given that no such study has reportedly been conducted, it would be irresponsible to revise the 2014 303(d) listing based on hearsay or a hodgepodge of questionable data collected from a variety of sources that do not meet peer-review standards for published scientific findings.

Long-Standing and Intensifying Water Quality Impairments

As documented in Attachment Two, “extremely offensive odor” associated with impaired water quality was reported in the vicinity of Stewart Park and the southeastern shoreline of Cayuga Lake on 8/13/97. Little or nothing has been done to rectify that long-standing concern.

The current photos of Canadian geese and their associated excrement do not reveal the extensive infestation of waterfowl that plagues Stewart Park with massive pollution during summer months.

My son has worked as a camp counselor in Stewart Park the last two years. Another son has attended various camp sessions. I can personally attest that it is virtually impossible to set foot near the shoreline without spreading goose excrement during summer months. This is undoubtedly a major contributor of water quality impairments regarding both phosphorous and pathogens. Camp staff and attendees are advised not to swim or wade in the lake.

That regrettable situation is consistent with the existing 303(d) pathogens impairment.

DEC and EPA’s Failure to Safeguard Water Quality is Unacceptable

The issue of pathogens impairment is part and parcel of DEC’s on-going failure to eliminate water quality hazards that have endured for more than 50 years in Southern Cayuga Lake. That problem is unacceptable, but it would be unforgivable for DEC to ignore regulatory exceedances without adequate scientific rationale. That would call into question the fundamental ability of DEC to enforce public health and environmental protection laws anywhere in New York.

DEC as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have both failed miserably to resolve water quality problems in Southern Cayuga Lake in any meaningful way despite nearly 16 years of continuous and highly active public involvement to achieve that goal.

Any step back from dealing with documented water quality impairments in this nationally recognized impaired waterbody would only add insult to injury and intensify the public’s deep animosity to DEC’s ineffectiveness.

That is why I strongly urge DEC to consider the full spectrum of Southern Cayuga Lake’s water quality impairments as part of its efforts to update its 2014 303(d) listing. With that goal in mind, I provide historic documents that reveal why the public is intensely interested in this matter.

Landmark NRDC Letter Regarding LSC Exacerbation of Existing Water Quality Impairments

Aquatic weeds and algae have increasingly engulfed the shallow waters of the Southern Cayuga Lake Shelf since the Cornell Lake Source Cooling (LSC) facility began operation. This concern was originally spelled out in a landmark letter from the Natural Resources Defense Fund (NRDC). See Attachment Three.

EPA and DEC’s Failure to Prevent LSC’s Water Quality Impact on Southern Cayuga Lake

As documented in Attachment Four, EPA, to its credit, crafted a landmark agreement that addressed critical concerns voiced by NRDC, local environmental groups and citizens. DEC opposed the key provisions of that proposal and it was ultimately killed.

The most disturbing aspect of that fiasco was the deliberate attempt by DEC, EPA and Cornell University to eliminate citizen involvement in the landmark proceeding while promising to take public concerns into consideration.

See Attachments Five and Six.


It is vitally important for DEC to understand that Cornell University has proven that it will go to any lengths to avoid culpability for exacerbating water quality impairments in Southern Cayuga Lake by building and operating its LSC Facility. That is clearly evident by the wildly erroneous remarks in Attachment Seven as well as the other documents I have provided herein.

Cornell has worked assiduously for more than 15 years to avoid responsibility for increasing water quality impairments ultimately documented by its own BACI (Before-After-Control-Impact Study). See:

Despite this irrefutable, statistically significant conclusion, DEC and EPA renewed the Lake Source Cooling permit pursuant to an agreement that allowed Cornell to fund a fatally flawed study without any firm commitment to resolve Southern Cayuga Lake’s water quality impairments through a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program deemed a high-priority circa 2002.

As DEC addresses its legal responsibilities to protect Southern Cayuga Lake and update its 2014 303(d) listing, I urge the agency to determine how Lake Source Cooling was originally permitted despite the detailed technical concerns brought to light by NRDC, local environmental groups and citizens who were subjected to unfair criticism by Cornell as well as the precisely accurate study conducted by Dr. Alex Horne which refuted Cornell’s manifestly incorrect predictions that LSC would cause no harm.

It is imperative that DEC do no more pollution damage to Southern Cayuga Lake. With that goal in mind, I urge the agency to a) err on the side of caution, b) base all of its decisions on rigorously conducted technical studies and c) clean up the water quality impairments in Southern Cayuga Lake, including excessive pathogens, without further delay.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the 2014 Draft 303(d) listing.

Very best regards,

Walter Hang

PDF of attachments below (6.3 MB)








Lake Source Cooling: