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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

Richard Franke
129 Rachel Carson Way
Ithaca, NY
Karen Keating-Secular
6361 99th Street, C11
Rego Park, NY
Judith Hyman
Enfield Neighbors for Save Air and Water (ENSAW)
632 Bostwick Road
Ithaca, NY
William Wakefield
P O Box 393
DeRuyter, New York
Taffy Williams
191 Westchester Avenue
Tuckahoe, New York
Ronald Lytel
87 Pioneer Street
Cooperstown, New York
Gwendolyn Morgan
620 Malcolm X Blvd, 2C
New York, NY
Arthur Scptt
Marist College
6 Andrea; Dr
Poughkeepsie, NY
Vicky Southall
5611 Godfreys pond rd
Bergen , NY
Jennifer Lahey
1 Orchard Drive
South Salem, NY
james spica
WVKR Radio
152 Bloomer rd.
Lagrangeville, NY
Cherry Rahn
16 Jay St
Geneva, NYv
Betty Harris
6281 S Cedar St
Littleton, CO
Julia Morgan
234 Rachel Carson Way
Ithaca, NY
Jerry Ravnitzky
124 Hill Street
Mahopac, New York
Rose Hilbert
Small business
PO Box 95, 112 East Main St.
Trumansburg, NY
Olivia Vent
194 East Miller Road
Ithaca, New York
Debbie Biltonen
6031 Brook Rd
Trumansburg, NY
Barbara Lattanzi
29 High St., Unit N
Alfred, NY
ruth hyde
Matthew F Carney III
201 Walnut Street, Apt. No. 102
Corning, NY
Jennifer Engel
927 Taughannock Blvd.
Ithaca, NYcomex
Julie Lockhart
Chair of Citizen Science Committee
Owasco Watershed Lake Association
6720 East Lake Road
Auburn, NY
Sarah Kiefer
2708 E. Lake Rd.
Skaneateles , NY
Bill Metzger
Great Lakes Brewing News
571 South Park Ave
Buffalo, NY
Elaine Oughterson
1 Elizabeth St.
Auburn, Ny
joe cummins
po box 825
ithaca, ny
Amy Harlib
212 West 22nd St. #2N
New York, NY
Deborah Kahkejian
398 State Route 69
Williamstown, NY
Robyn Bem
3 Ringwood Court West
Ithaca, NY
Robert Nickerson
69 Hart Road
Spencer, New York
Wendy Wallitt
209 Valley Rd
Ithaca, NY
Arnold Talentino
38 Van Hoesen Street
Cortland, NY
Elaine Livingston
1403 Glenwood Road
Vestal, NY
Joan-Marie Bauman
106 Rupp Road
Monticello, NY
Gail Musante
official signer for S-OACC
Sanford-Oquaga Area Concerned Citizens (S-OACC)
199 Front Street
Deposit, NY
Kayla Stevens
9671 powers road
Weedsport , New York
Brenda Lee
16 Quarry Dr
Wappingers Falls , NY
Sally Crow
214 McBerney Rd.
Greene, New York
Shirley Tripp
204 first st
Ithaca, Ny
Tony Henderson
225 Rachel Carson way
Ithaca, New York
Pamela Hughes
Sierra Club Niagara Group
PO Box 1127
Williamsville, New York
Edward Beck
4903 Rockefeller Rd
Auburn, NY
Judith Freeman
79 Lakeshore Drive
Auburn, NY
Maria Studer
127 Springtime Lane West
Martha Scoppa
32 Cold Spring Road
Liberty, NY
Kristin Lovelace-Ross
56 Waterburg Rd
Trumansburg, NY
Cameron Brown
39 Rosman Road
Theills, NY