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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

Erin Humphrey
1741 Shady Bend Lane
Skaneateles , NY
Neil Freson
26 Bitternell Lane
Henrietta, NY
Beth Devine
6132 Oakridge Road
Auburn, NY
Joe Librandi-Cowan
49 Chase St
Auburn, NY
Lisa Brennan
Melinda Halligan
100 Walden heights dr
Irmo, Sc
Tracie Keim
733 Spring Lake Road
Port Byron, New York
Justin Wood
117 S Hoopes Ave
Auburn, Ny
John Knecht
Professor Emeritus
Colgate University
1339 Moscow Road
Hubbardsville, New York
Laurie Whiting
6 Walnut St Ext
Auburn, NY
Mark Ferrari
3627 Keesee Road
Moravia, NY
Lucy Janssen
18 Meadowbrook Drive
gretchen schulz
158 Weston Road
Rochester, NY
Ann Boehm
474 Bailor Road extension
Brooktondale, NY
David Mitchell
402 Esty Street
Ithaca, NY
Jeannine Crawford
4968 Longacre Drive
Syracuse, New York
Patty Weisse
3805 Jordan Road
Skaneateles, NY
Kate Donovan
Prison City Pub & Brewery
79 Ross St
Auburn, New York
Angela Daddabbo
144 Genesee Street, Suite 102-305
Auburn, NY
Luciana Torous
149 Dunning Ave.
Auburn, New York
Robert Faynor
98 Stillmeadow Lane
Auburn, NY
elaine jurumbo
205 e 78 st
new york, ny
Mary Sennett
19 Goodspeed Place
Skaneateles, New York
Molly Swartz
West Lake Rd
Auburn, NY
Catherine Wyss
12822 Indian Hills Rd
Tebbetts , MO
Barbara Devine
Save Owasco Now
6132 Oakridge Road
Auburn, NY
Ann Ellis
2140 Long Creek Road
Apalachin, NY
Terrance Quill
104 Frances St.
Auburn, NY
Margaret Sikora
Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement
41 Old Highland Tpke
Garrison, NY
Doretta Parker
82 Havens Ave
Auburn, NY
Andy Schell
Environmental Engineer
160 Moose Creek Rd
Butte, Montana
Michael Jones
6035 Oakridge Rd
Auburn, NY
William Hecht
5525 State Rt 90, fire lane 20
Union Springs, NY
Bill Pelc
87 VanAnden St
Auburn , New York
Arthur Hutchinson
po box 1073
auburn, ny
Katie MacIntyre
1 Bellevue Pl
Auburn, NY
Devon Roblee
7 Orchard St
Auburn, NY
Malcolm Miller
33 Meadowbrook Drive
Auburn, New York
Diane Harrington
5313 Poster Lane
Fayetteville, New York
William Tenity
Cayuga County Retired Teachers' Association
599 N Seeard Ave
Auburn, NY
Anita Tuccillo
253 E Genesee St.
Auburn , NY
Peter Whiting
6 Walnut Street Ext
Auburn, NY
Fred Madden
513 North Tioga Street
Ithaca, NY - New York
Brian Scanlan
6450 Victory Dr
Auburn, NY
Lori Guido
26 Pine Valley dr
Rochester , NY
Diane Miller
33 Meadowbrook Drive
Auburn, NY
Laureen O'CONNOR
5332 West Lake Road
Auburn , New York
chris durham
230 grant ave apt 4
auburn, ny
249 South Hoopes Ave.
Auburn, NY