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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 Rink
5737 W Lake Rd
Auburn , NY
Chris Major
17 N Hunter Ave
Auburn, NY
Timothy Riley
4 Elizabeth Street
Auburn, New York
40 Ridgeway Rd
Brooktondale, NY
Dean Aversa
149 Woodlawn Ave
Auburn, NY
Jeanne Trinca
146 Garrow St. Ext.
Auburn, New York
Stacy DeForrest
19 Throop Ave.
Rebecca Casstevens
BeanCounters Unlimited
22 Winding Way
Binghamton, NY
Gloria Foster
Retired School Social Worker
NY State citizen
3906 Chatham Ln
Canandaigua, NY
Walter Dungey
109 North St
Auburn, New York
Matthew Evans
66 swift street
Auburn, New York
Theresa Walsh
74 Mary Street
Auburn, NY
Wendy Wakula
377 Hunts Corner Road
Marathon, NY
M Buffy Hodgetts
101 Jersey Street
Rochester, New York
Nina Wickett
Sandra Salisbury
151 Sherwood Hill Rd.
Brewster, NY
Karen Brady
363 Cottonwood Lane
Auburn, Ny
Marsha Acerra
PO box 881
Ithaca, Ny
Ilse Funk
Otsego 2000
238 Mill Rd
Cherry Valley, NY
Sarah Raite
5217 Hook Circle
Jamesville , NY
Carolyn Fellman
15 Park St.
Moravia, NY
Susan Andrews
15 Park St.
Moravia, NY
Joyce Mosher
61 Wellington Rd.
Delmar, NY
John and Suzanne Klink
23 Adams Ave
Auburn, New York
Eric Mundt
100 Imperial Circle
Rochester, NY
Melissa Geherin
28 s Hunter Ave
Auburn , Ny
Diane Taylor
No answer
2 Teller Ave
Auburn, NY
Eleanor Wilcox
3940 Miller Rd
Auburn, NY
Patricia Heckart
24 Elm St
Trumansburg, NY
Stephen Singer
445 Ferguson Rd
Freeville, New York
Lou Priem
276 Van Yahres Rd
Cooperstown, NY
penny baron
445 Ferguson Rd
Freeville, New York
veronica sherman
24 bobolink lane
salt point, new york
Carey Harben
1800's Fingerlakes Farmhouse
Harben Farm
5885 rt 79
Trumansburg, New York
mitchell fanning
5251 west lake rd, 5251 west lake rd
auburn, New York
harold kugelmass
PO Box 264
Interlaken, New York
Nick Diego
22 Grove ave
Auburn, NY
Dawn Schulz
28 State Street
Auburn, NY
708b plymouth drive
lakewood, NJ
Kathleen Barrett
5055Van Zandt Rd
Syracuse, NY
Lynn Cummings
18 Willowbrook Dr
Auburn , NY
Rosemarie Romano
Archivist and Co-Chair, Membership Committee
Owasco Watershed Lake Association (OWLA)
155 Ross Street Ext.
Auburn, New York
Patricia Hess
33 Havens Ave.
Auburn, N.Y.
1219 ROUTE 83
Patricia Heaton
30 Buck Road
Lansing, NY
Judy Kugelmass
PO Box 264
Interlaken, NY
Melissa Bishop
Catskilll Citizens for Safe Energy
72 Elm St.
Deposit, NY
Eric Zizza
John Paleczny
6133 Oakridge Rd
Auburn, NY
Shawn Butler
38 Prospect St
Auburn, New York