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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

Mark Ahrens
128 Oakwood Drive
Wading River, New York
Michael Trapani
The Jacobs Press, Inc.
87 Columbus Street
Auburn, NY
Russel Oliver
11 Sherman Rd
Kerhonkson, NY
Gary Nelson
38 Maple Ave.
Troy, NY
Eleanor Fox
30 Columbia Circle
Albany, NY
John Kastner
50dorset st
Rochester, NY
Paula O'Brien
34 Copley St
Auburn, NY
Howard Nelson
3617 Keesee Road
Moravia, New York
Vladimir Micic
118 Honness Lane
Ithaca, NY
Frank Lattimore
7064 Owasco Rd
Auburn, NY
G Mille
Box 861
Moab, Utah
shyama orum
305 Wesst 28 Street
New York, New York
Linda Walawender
SON (Save Owasco Now)
2256 Turnpike Rd
Auburn, NY
William Whiting
7159 Owasco Road
Auburn, NY
Doug and Nancie Reese
417 Waters Edge
Auburn, New York
Brandon Valenti
77 Lansing Street
Auburn, NY
Philip J. Fillion
Director of Music
St. Mary's Church
107 N Fulton St
Auburn, NY
Megan Vitale
Owasco Lake land owner
4252 West Lake Rd.
Auburn, NY
Denise Vasile
Save owasco now
5890 owasco terrace
Auburn, New York
Ashley Ward
38 Wallace Ave
Auburn, New York
Nancy Keefe Rhodes
218 1/2 Hawley Ave
Syracuse , NYF
Louie Vasile
5890 Owasco Terrace
Auburn, New York
Joanne Lorenc
34 Stryker Ave
Auburn, New York
Tom Vasile
Concerned citizen
157 BUrtis Point Road
Auburn, New YOrk. 13021
William Gilmore
7 Third Ave
Auburn, Ny
Karen Vasile
157 BUrtis Point Road
Auburn, New York. 13021
Karen Sroka
1074 Number One Road
Union Springs, NY
Nancy Jackson
7090 State Street Rd
Auburn, NY
Josh Williams
Castle Creek, NY
Elizabeth Gilmore
700 Dwywer Road
terry podolak
University Hospital
117 Standart Av
auburn, ny
Charles Matthews
700 Dwyer rd
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Sarah Reese
Baltimore, MD
Erin Johanns
Citizen of Cayuga county
117 Standart Ave
Auburn, NY
Mimi Matthews
2875 Avenida Alberto
Lillian, AL
James Swartz
Home owner on Owasco Lake
6060 West Lake Road
Auburn, New York
Dia Carabajal
116 Curtis Pl.
Auburn, NY
Taylre Conway
62 Hazelhurst Ave
Auburn , New York
Lee Ballard
116 Curtis Pl
Auburn , NY
Matthias Ballard
116 Curtis Pl
Auburn, NY
Kelly Grkinich
1687 Doral dr
Upland, Ca
Margaret Hicks
14 Perrine st
Auburn, Ny
Diana Larrabee
217 Roxford Rd N
Syracuse , NY
Anne Marie Green
7058 Owasco Road
Auburn, New York
Michael Lynch
7 Tuxill Square
Auburn, NY
Sandy Hatfield
2199 State Rt. 38
Moravia, NY
Anita Schneller
2977 Fire Lane #3
Moravia, NY
Audrey Iwanicki
Owasco Paddles
3 Tuxill Sq
Auburn, New York
Lori Van Orden
14865 Summerbreeze Way
San Diego, CA
Marissa Sabetta