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

Rachel Marco-Havens
UNited Nations Rep and Advisor
Wittenberg Center (UN Representative) Center For Earth Ethics (Advosor)
Po box 242
Woodstock, NY
Rhonda Stanford-Zahn
3092 Fleming-Scipio Townline rd
Auburn, Ny
Polly Howells
Board member
Radical Joy for Hard Times
15 Upper Glenview Drive
Glenford, NY
Terrence Lattimore
US Envirosystems
7177 Owasco Rd
Auburn, NY
Richard Driscoll
Former Supervisor Town of Newfield
114 Bank St
Newfield, NY
Abigail Cohn
309 The Parkway
Ithaca, NY
Laurie Goodhart
Box 545
Cambridge, NY
Stephen DeLuca
7280 Owasco Rd
Auburn, NY
Erica Cesario
197 Seymour St
Auburn, New York
Peter Pazzaglini
Professor, Senior Scholar
Columbia University
2301 Jenkins Street
Endicott, NY
Nicole Catalfano
2820 White Birch Lane
Auburn , Ny
John Cusick
1419 Prospect Street
Willard, NY
Denise Kooperman
5134 Curry Road
Trumansburg, New York
Mark Klingensmith
PO Box 549
Alfred, NY
John Agati
36 kearney Ave
Auburn, NY
Devin Henry
90 W University St
Alfred, NY
Amy AVINO Bryan
7802 Grant Avenue RD
Auburn, NY
Megan Hutchings
5732 silver street road
Auburn, NY
Melissa Stam
4906 Blossom Lane
Wilmington , DE
Dennis Turechek
392 Hathaway Road
Otego, NY
Louis Emmi
Attorney at Law
133 Dillon Drive
Pittsburgh , PA
Bonnie Logan
3199 Grenell Road
Middle Grove, NY
Oksana Fuller
3971 County Road 16
Canandaigua, NY
Ann Payne
80 Swift St
Auburn, NY
Janice Cragnolin
12562 County Rte 23
Unadilla, NY
Diane MacInnes
Sanford-Oquaga Srea Concerned Citizens
739 Oquaga Lake Road
Deposit, NY
Daniel Sternglass
Feather labs Inc.
403 Highgate Road
Ithaca, NY
Richard Johnsen
343 Raymond Fish Rd.
Hartwick, NY
James Fralick
Canandaigua Lake Watershed Association
3714 Thorndale Beach
Canandaigua , New York
Karen Morean
8006 Co.Rd. 153
Interlaken, NY
donna mundt
po box 187
newark valley, NY
Chrissy Smith
Concerned citizen & mom
P.o. box83
Union Spri6, NY
Karen Neuberg
2 Grace Court
Brooklyn, NY
William King
130 Westhaven Rd.
Ithaca, NY
Douglas Kinney
63 River Street
Oneonta, New York
Stephen Keast
PO Box 105, Hurd Rd.
Slaterville Springs, NY
John Back
7 Harder Road
Barryville, NY
Katherine Denison
Denison Creative
289 Richs Dugway
Rochester , NY
Christopher Wood
365 North Hoopes Ave
Auburn, nY
Lisa Vitale
9 North Hunter Ave
Auburn, NY
Matthew Herman
3759 Rockefeller Rd
Moravia, New York
Janet Brooks
30 Adams Ave
Auburn, Ny
June Lawler
5875 Bonnir Lynn Terrace
Auburn, NY
Nancy Beers
110 Creekside Dr. #133
Painted Post, NY
Christine Izzo
4535 Rockefeller Rd
Auburn, NY
Sheila Squier
110 Columbia Street
Ithaca, NY
Marianne Kearney
167 Glenford Wittenberg Rd.
Glenford, NY
mary beth oconnor
119 middaugh road
brooktondale, ny
Elizabeth Moro
4060 State St Rd
Skaneateles, NY