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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

Jeni DeMarco
9296 Scipio Rd
Nunda, NY
Elaine Buchberger
2276 Overbrook Dr
Auburn, New York
James Cella
24061 Depew Avenue
Douglaston, New York
Jesse Lenney
PO Box 20498
Rochester, NY
Lesley Kennedy
Auburn, NY
Laura Nowack
28 South Main Street
Earlville, NY
Daniel Ripperton
323 Rachel Carson Trail
Ithaca, NY
Richard Allen
43 Forest Acres Dr.
Ithaca, NY
sarah striffler
605 Hudson Street
Ithaca, NY
Kristina Sherman
107 Melrose road
Auburn, NY
Leslie Kurzweil
2250 N. Triphammer Rd. K3B
Ithaca, New York
Roger Beer
81 Swift Street
Auburn, New York
James Little
647 Cafferty Hill Rd.
Endicott, New York
Ann Finneran
Chair, Water Issues Committee
Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter
PO Box 143 (239 Main St)
Hurleyville, NY
Albert Mendillo
11 Quill Ave
Auburn , NY
Peggy Bartels
concerned citizens of Oneida County
6927 Valley View rd.
Clinton, New York
Karen Tardif
5793 Southgate Dr.
Auburn, Ny
Richard Elliott
6438East Lake Rd
Auburn , Ny
Ed Leaf
123 Dunning Ave
Auburn, NY
Nicole Adsitt
3419 Van wie drive east
Baldwinsville, Ny
Janet Wylde
213 1/2 W. Lincoln
Ithaca, NY
Mary Lovelace
2504 State Route 79
Trumansburg, NY
Elizabeth Sanders
16 The Byway
Ithaca, NY
Teresa Gaisser-Bent
76 Fitch Ave
Auburn , NY
Jamie Carr
6930 Owasco Rd
Auburn, New York
Karen Carr
6930 Owasco Road
Auburn , New York
Kathleen Long
Cornell University
1 Hunters Lane
Ithaca, NY
Robert Scholl
912 North Cayuga St, Apr 1s
Ithaca, NY
Alec Riester
Auburn, New York
Deborah Rogers
33 Leavenworth Ave
Auburn, NY
Patricia F Beer
81 Swift St
Auburn, New York
Erin Heaton Meyer
Vice Chair
Chenango Community Action for Renewable Energy (C-CARE)
510 County Road 31
Norwich, NY
Gerald Kadien
Nancy Reynolds
405 Hattie Clark Road
Greene, New York
Maryl Mendillo
RD # 1
Aurora, NY
Louann Ohora
75 Morningside Dr
Croton on Hudson, NY
George Kerstetter Jr
316 N Marvine Ave
Auburn, NY
Anne Herrling
12 belle ave
Auburn , Ny
Tina Socci
111 Eastwood Ave
Auburb, NyManchest Alfreda
C.J. Randall
309 W Green St
Ithaca, NY
Lynette Geisinger
141 Garrow St Ext
Auburn, NY
Susan Spivack
250 Quarry Street
Cobleskill, New York
Nancy Sharpe
216 6th St.
Liverpool, NY
Kourtney Blackburn
166 Wendover Road
Rochester, New York
Suzanne Harr
54 VanAnden St Apt2
Auburn, Ny
Tara Simmonds
19 Liberty St
Auburn, NY
Mike Blegen
Digital Media Teacher
555 Warren Road
Ithaca, New York
David Ritchie
160 Crescent Pla.
Ithaca, NY
Sarah Vitale
1005 N Bittersweet Ln
Muncie, IN
Joan Schuster
Real estate agent
23 Elizabeth St
Auburn, N. Y.