You are here

Coalition Letter Which Requests That Governor Cuomo Take Urgent Action to Eliminate Water Quality Impairments That Cause Cyanobacteria Harmful Algal Blooms Across New York State

Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
The Capitol
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Cuomo:

We, the undersigned, write to request that you take urgent action to eliminate water quality impairments which have caused cyanobacteria Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) in Skaneateles Lake, Owasco Lake, Cayuga Lake, Seneca Lake, Hemlock Lake, Canadice Lake and dozens of other New York waterbodies.

See: Photos of Harmful Algal Blooms on Owasco and Cayuga Lake 2017

See: Map of Reported Harmful Algal Blooms in New York State 2017

This unprecedented public health threat warrants your utmost attention because cyanobacteria HABs have released neurotoxins into waterbodies which supply drinking water to more than 300,000 residents of Skaneateles, Auburn, Syracuse, Rochester, Ithaca and many other communities.

New York's Long-Standing Failure to Adopt Comprehensive Clean Up Programs for Impaired Waters Listed in the National 303(d) Registry

Your administration's long-standing failure to clean up impaired waters imperils critical water supply sources, regional economic hubs, irreplaceable natural resources and local property values. We respectfully request that your administration resolve this problem as a top priority without further delay.

New York has a total of 219 waterbodies included in the National 303(d) Registry of Impaired Waters which require comprehensive Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) clean up programs. More than half of those waters are impaired by excessive phosphorus and nitrogen which can cause cyanobacteria HABs.

The pace of your administration's clean up efforts is woefully inadequate. More than half of the 219 impaired waters were listed prior to 2004 and still do not have TMDLs. No TMDLs have been adopted for 14 impaired waters listed in 1998. Only 15 impaired waters are scheduled for TMDL clean ups through 2022. New York has no plans to adopt TMDLs for more than 200 impaired waters.

See: New York State 2016 Section 303(d) List of Impaired Waters Requiring a TMDL/Other Strategy

Given New York's extensive cyanobacteria HAB problems, we request that you drastically accelerate the clean up of National 303(d) Registry nutrient impairments which threaten drinking water sources, including six reservoirs.

We request that your administration adopt a TMDL within two years for each waterbody in the 303(d) Registry which experienced a cyanobacteria HAB which threatened drinking water. A TMDL should be adopted within five years for each new impaired waterbody added to the National 303(d) Registry.

The Cautionary Tale of Cayuga Lake

Cayuga Lake exemplifies the perils of your administration's water pollution clean up delays. The southern lake was included in the National 303(d) Registry in 2002 when a TMDL was required as a "high priority" to address "phosphorus and silt/sediment" impairments. To this day, no TMDL has ever been proposed to clean up the lake's massive algal blooms and aquatic weed infestations.

In August 2017, a cyanobacteria HAB prohibited public bathing at Taughannock State Park and threatened drinking water for thousands of residents. Until then, Cayuga Lake had never experienced a major cyanobacteria HAB.

New York State exacerbated Cayuga Lake's pollution problems by improperly granting a 1998 permit which allowed Cornell's Lake Source Cooling facility to discharge phosphorus into the area of the lake with the worst water quality impairments. The Clean Water Act specifically prohibits issuing a discharge permit for any project that through its construction or operation will cause or contribute to water quality violations.

In 1999, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed a landmark clean up plan to safeguard Cayuga Lake from Lake Source Cooling's phosphorus discharges after concerns gained national attention in The New York Times, but New York and Cornell opposed EPA's plan and it was never adopted.

See: Aid to Environment, Or Threat to Lake?; Cornell Pursues Pumping Plan, But Critics Fear Fouled Water

According to Cornell's own 2008 Before-After-Control-Impact Study, chlorophyll α, a measure of biological activity, increased by nearly 50% after Lake Source Cooling began operation. As a result, algae and weed growth greatly increased.

Another Cornell study documented in 2016 that Lake Source Cooling contributes about five percent of all the phosphorus discharged onto the shallow "shelf" in Southern Cayuga Lake where water quality exceeds state standards.

After 19 years of polluting Cayuga Lake, the Lake Source Cooling discharge must be moved "off the shelf" so that phosphorus can be returned to the lake's depths without causing HABs. This is precisely what EPA proposed in 1999.


New York is facing a cyanobacteria HAB drinking water threat of huge proportions. Skaneateles and Auburn, NY have both come within less than one tenth of a part per billion of not being able to fulfill EPA's 10-day health advisory that limits cyanobacteria microcystins in drinking water to 0.3 micrograms/liter for children under six years of age. Another potent neurotoxin called homo-anatoxin was just identified in Owasco Lake.

In order to eliminate all future HAB cyanobacteria hazards, we respectfully request that you implement our proposed plan of action without delay. We also ask that you adopt Maximum Contaminant Levels for cyanobacteria toxins in drinking water and upgrade treatment plants to remove these contaminants in order to safeguard public health.

We trust that you will find it self-explanatory, but please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or suggestions.

Very best regards,

Total Signatory Count: 1526

Karen K Smith
68 Mary St.
Ithaca, New York
Mary Menapace
2487 East Lake Road
Skaneateles, NY
Stephen Gamba
128 North St
Auburn, NY
Dawn Noble
40 Linn Ave Auburn
Auburn, NY
Patricia Dinges
232 Hibernia Road, P.O. Box 240
Salt Point, NY
James W Hamilton
Sixmile Creek Water Quality Monitors, Town of Ithaca Conservation Board
1603 Slaterville Rd
Ithaca, NY
Kathleen Carnes
3097 Franklin Street Rd
Auburn , Ny
Victoria Furio
Climate Justice
37 Highland Ave
Yonkers, NY
Lesley Adams
6200 Mount Rd
Trumansburg, NY
Gerri Wiley
Residents Allied for the Future of Tioga (RAFT)
19 Lake Street
Owego, New York
Anthony J Kopp
30 Esopus Ave
Phoenicia, NY
Cheri Rice
65 Burt Ave
Auburn, NY
Catherine Wojnowicz
18 Ketchell St
Auburn, NY
Elisa Evett
298 BAld Hill Rd.
Brooktondale, New York
John and Martha Stoltenberg
Mr. and Mrs.
N8362 State Highway 67, P.O. Box 596
Elkhart Lake, Wiscoinsin
Mickey Belosi
6109 Oakridge Rd
Auburn, New York
Nicholas Pennella
172 N.Fulton St.
Auburn, NY
Elizabeth Kuney
226 Milburn Drive
Syracuse, NY
Heriberto Rodriguez
533 County Highway 18
Mount Upton, New York
James-Henry Holland
Asian Studies, Hobart College, 300 Pulteney St.
Geneva, NY
Patricia Vendryes
Groton, NY
Dana Merizzi
4652 NY-34B
Union Springs, NY
Thomas Shelley
118 E. Court St.
Ithaca, NY
James W Prescott, Ph.D.
BioBehavioral Systems
1140-23 Savannah Rd
Lewes, DE
Alice Bartholomew
415 Wall Street
Elmira, NY
Samantha Castillo-Davis
1312 Hanshaw Road
Ithaca, NY
Wendell F Perks Jr
6035 Turnpike Road
Trumansburg, NY
Alan Ominsky
351 Main St
Aurora, NY
Ellen Cotter
111 South Street
Auburn, NY
Leslie Gold
40 Downing St.
Susan Rusinko
111 N Marvine Ave
Auburn, New York
Charles Burch
East 2nd Street
Corning, NY
Eric Lukowski
54 Perry st.
Auburn , Ny
Elvira Carabajal
114 Curtis Place
Auburn , New York
MargaretAnn Bowers
Listen Lead Learn
433 N Geneva St
Ithaca, NY
Vinny Aliperti
4760 W Lake Rd
Geneva, New York
Lori Jo Siegel
72 truesdale drive
Croton , Ny
Amanda Franco
6 emma street
Auburn, Ny
cinda Gilmore
5412 w. Lake road
Auburn, Ny
Ann Padlick
301 N Marvine Avenue
Auburn, NY
Kelley Villano
213 N. Marvine Ave.
Auburn, NY
Toni Giannettino
10 Alden Ave
Auburn, NY
Robert Pearce
24 Vista Street
Auburn, New York
Robert Walsh
131 N Division St.
Auburn, NY
Adam Boyhan
Systems Administrator
Community Computer Services
201 Seymour St.
Auburn, NY
Julie Parisi
36 Purdy Hollow Road
Woodstock, NY
Jenny Boyhan
201 Seymour St
Auburn, Ny
Brian Woodard
109 Cottage st
Auburn, NY
Michael Gilmore
5412 W Lake rd
Auburn, NY