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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

Audrey Iwanicki
3 Tuxill Sq
Auburn, New York
Caroline Levine
4 The Byway
Ithaca, NY
Kelley Huttar
Cayuga County Resident
2872 Tanner Rd
Weedspirt, NY
Andrew Giannettino
10 Alden ave
Auburn, New york
Diane McKeon
144 Genesee St. Suite 102-258
Auburn, NY
Eleanor Beck
4903 Rockefeller Road
Auburn, New York
Sean Gosch
Syracuse, NY
Eric Giannettino
8 Woodland Hills drive
Bluffton, SC
Jaeseena Bertot
5428 West Lake Road
Auburn , NY
Deb Spearing
127 Swift St
Auburn, Ny
Heather Lee
Auburn, NY
Tiffany Haty
819 31st ave s
Seattle, WA
Cindy Butler
250 McIntosh Dr a7
Auburn, Ny
Nancy Becerra
111 South Lincoln Ave
Liverpool, NY
Robin Nanas McKay
2831 stone school rd
Auburn, New York
Cindy Johnson
204 W 17th St
Wilmington, Delaware
Denise Bellerdine
17 Green Links Turn
Auburn, New York
Debra Rose Brillati
2009 W. Genesee St. Rd.
Auburn, NY
Catherine Dec
6990 n Division st rd
Auburn, NY
Madeline Geller
204 W 17th St
Wilmington, DE
Thomas O'Toole
Owasco Yacth club, American legion post 239
4259 Wiggins Rd.
Owasco, NY
Patricia Hallgren
84 Elyse Road
Mansfield, MA
Rachel Barron
23 S Hunter Ave
Auburn, NY
Karen Lee
531 Main Street #807
New York, NY
Ashley Melendez
Town of Owasco
8 Havens Ave.
Auburn , New York
Bruce Blodgett
7 Charles Street
Auburn , NY
Liz Lattimore
6966 Fosterville Rd
Auburn, New York
John Scanlan
6082 West Lake Road
Auburn, NY
Susan Jordan
121 Austin Drive
Auburn, NY
Douglas Springer
114 South St
Auburn, NY
janet ievins
southern oregon climate action now, SOCAN
talent, OR
Lucien Lombardo
61 Perrine Street
Auburn, NY
Alici Freedman
207 Giles St
Ithaca, New York
Brandon Mallory
4 Morningside dr
Auburn, New York
Debra Springstead
59 Kensington ave
Auburn , Ny
Arvilla Grazier
7229 Owasco rd
Auburn, NY
Jenn Parker
5731 Bluefield rd
Auburn, Ny
Anne Mlod
2791 Marshall St.
Weedsport, NY
Frank Marinelli
2 Fourth Ave
Auburn , New York
Leslie Leary
16 S. Hunter Avenue
Auburn, NY
Jackie Darquea
7 Charles Street
Auburn, NYcalder
Anthony Ventura
22 Hickory st.
Auburn , NY
Adam Winslow
General Manager
Auburn Doubledays Baseball Club
24 S. Hunter Avenue
Auburn , NY
William Brown
Facility Directorboulevard
Auburn YMCA
5345 Bluefield Rd
Auburn, NY
Jennifer Clark
Whispering Winds
4221 E Genesee St Rd
Auburn, NY
Mary Murphy
5916 Petre Drive
Auburn, New York
Keith Murphy
5916 Petre Drive
Auburn, New York
Kevin McCormick
11 Hillside Terr
Auburn, NY
AUBURN, New York
Ann McLaughlin
892 Butternut Ridge Rd.
Canton, New York