You are here

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

Susan Waby
153 S Hoopes Ave
Auburn, New York
Laura Ponticello
Skaneateles , New York
Regina Scalisi
16 Drummond St
Auburn, NY
John Mack
5481 Mobbs Rd
Auburn, NY
Lisa Cunliffe
221 high st ext.
Fairport, NY
Beth Cuddy
Save Owasco Now
133 S. Hoopes Ave.
Auburn, New York
Kristen Allen
12 Grove Avenue
Auburn, NY
Melissa Barraque
38 Dayton St
Auburn, NY
Michele Lattimore Sedor
5 John Smith Avenue
Auburn , NY
Andrew Scharoun
87 Nelson
Auburn, NY
Robert Cotter
111 South Street
Auburn, NY
Kim Oropallo
4578 w lake rd
Auburn , NY
K Scholl
Syracuse, NY
Erin Northrup
82 standart ave
Auburn, Ny
Alice Ross
377 Skipperene rd
Narrowsburg , NY
Sandra LaDouce
5865 Dunning Ave
Auburn, New York
Bonny Blair
Owasco Yacht Club
108 N Hoopes Ave
Auburn , NY
Michael Griffith
16 James street
Auburn, Ny
Any Giannettino
100 Swift Street
Auburn , NY
Jan Daum
14 Koenig Ct
Auburn , NY
Christopher Molloy
just a citizen
23 Delevan Street
Auburn, NY
Elaine Shuster
61 Stewart Ave - Unit 311
Newburgh, NY
Judith Dorsey
22 Beach Ave
Auburn, NY
derek locastro
16 elm st
auburn, ny
Bruce Hester
14 Washington St.
Auburn, New York
Demetra Vounas
2367 East Lake Road
Skaneateles, NY
Nancy D Rysedorph
Patient Advocate
Compassionate Care NY
12 Munro Ct., Apt 1
Troy, NY
Ronald Thompson
128 Dunning Ave
Auburn , N.Y.
Kelli Jefferds
85 Nelson St
Auburn, NY
Richard Nangle
6314 E. Lake Rd.
Auburn , New York
Sarah Yaw
152 Ross St Ext
Auburn, NY
Nancy Talbot Heath
Auburn, Ny
Kathleen Ford
, NY
Kathy Bradshaw
210 South Pleasant Street, Apt 301
Independence, Missouri
Kathleen Austin
32 east lake st
Skanesteles, Ny
Rhonda House
Auburn, NY
Sandra Jorgensen
133 Washington St
Auburn, NY
Linda Bishop-Surbeck
POB 408
Skaneateles, NY
Denise Acker
138 Standart Ave #244
Auburn, New York
Benjamin Janssen
18 Meadowbrook Dr
Auburn, New York
Beth Olearczyk, MD
87 Pioneer Street
Cooperstown, New York
Sharon M. Hollister
5750 Crabtree Lane.
Cicero, New York
Karen Lillie
873 McDonald rd
Port byron, Ny
Alan mosher
133 S. Fulton st.
Auburn, New York
Patricia Drennen
11 Hillside Ln
Weedsport, NY
Michael Drennen
11 hillside Ln
Weedsport, NY
Kathy Sparrow
PO Box 17
Skaneateles Falls, Ny
Kelly Wejko
Pepsi owner
2796 sharon stree
Weedsport, Ny
Nicholas Prychodko
PO Box 2138
Bridgehampton, New York
Crystina Brooks
6480 East Lake rd
Auburn, Ny