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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

Patricia Podolak
4262 Duryea Street
Moravia, New York
Carol Trzaska
329 North Hoopes Ave
Auburn, NY
nancy Fefer
2970 Holland Dr
Auburn, NY
Kristen O'Connell
155 Virginia Street
Waterloo, New York
nancy schlenker
String/Band Teacher
Auburn NY elementary schools-Owasco and Genesee
19 Observatory Circle
Ithaca, ny
Michael Ferro
Ferro Property Services
31 Wadsworth St
Auburn, NY
Paris Paciorek
1782 tamarack trail
Skaneateles , NY
Courtney Free
26131 Hardin Store Road
Magnolia, Texas
Anne Melnick
Auburn, New York
AUBURN, New York
Ben Flaherty
2301 Millcreek CT
Valrico, FL
Elizabeth Koenig
67 south Street
Auburn, New York
Gary Cuthbert
Community Computer Service, Inc
5602 Buck Point Road
Auburn, NY
Kathy Starnick
20 Cinderella Lane NW
Ft Walton Beach, FL
Deb lusink
371 poplar beach
Auburn, New York
Ryann Freeman
3869 old forge rd
Virginia beach, Va
Tom and Nancy Murphy
327 Waters Edge PO Box 682
Auburn, New York
Marilyn Scheftic
OWLA and Save Owasco Now!
143 Lazy Trail
Penfield, NY
Patty Campbell
56709 Nash
Chapel Hill, NC
David Kievit
4976 Mount Pleasant Road
Moravia, New York
Lisa Brady
361 Wide Waters Lane
Auburn, NY
Ron Netti
19 John Smith Ave
Auburn, NY
John Humrih
339 Waters Edge
Auburn , NY
Mallory Donigan
33 Hurd Circle
Auburn , NY
Daniel Cannucciari
Crouse Radiology Assoc.
5604 Buck Point Rd
Auburn, New York
Amy Fuller
Chamber Manager
Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce
19 Bristol Ave
Auburn, New York
Rich Doan
Cayuga, NY
Thomas Casella
Concerned Citizen
4015 Bonnie Banks Rd
Seneca Falls, NY
Lisa Giacona
383 Waters Edge
Auburn, NY
Molly Wilgucki
Myriam Contiguglia
6404 Sterling Circle
Victor, New York
Sue DeBagio
5758 Hickory Lane
Auburn, New York
Marilynne Sommers
930 Coddington Road
Ithaca, NY 14850
Adam Wasileski
4867 Westfield Dr
Manlius, NY
Kelly Donigan
2664 East Lake rd
Skaneateles, Ny
Karen Tehan
6440 Parkwood Ln
Auburn, NY
Ellen Moodie
1721 State Road
Webster, NY
Mike Wall
9 logan st
Auburn, Ny
Steve Donigan
2664 E Lake Rd
Skaneateles , NY
Russell Moodie
Save Owasco Now (SON)
1721 State Road
Webster , NY
Deb Donigan
2664 East Lake Rd
Skaneateles , NY
Stephen Kline
15 Linn Ave
Auburn, NY
samuel giacpma
giacona law, pc
383 waters edge
auburn, ny
Millie Reed
Ass't Director
Cornell University
377 Snyder Hill Road
Ithaca, NY
Louise Cassino
421 Waters Edge
Owasco, NY
Melissa Deyneka
6468 East Lake Road
Auburn, New York
Peter Epperson
30 Cayuga street
Auburn, New York
arthur Price
president/ chairman
community preservation comittee
144 ross st. ext.
auburn, new york
Linda Scolaro
16 VanDuyne Ave
Auburn, NY
Nancy Craine
97 Melrose Road
Auburn , New York