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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

Ross M. Horowitz
820 W King Road
Ithaca, New York
Debby Clark
21 Holley Street
Auburn , New York
Sandi Townsend
2401 Pennsylvania Ave. Unit 1405
Wilmington , DE
Ashley Kukella
7 Adams Street
Auburn, NY
Mark Cahill
15 Fairway Drive
Auburn, NY
Mary Anne Wilson
8237 Turnstone Drive
Manlius, NY
Judy Foresman
102 Brook Hollow Dr.
Auburn, New York
Melissa Fantasia
165 North Apt 2
Auburn, NY
Amanda Mackin
1 Bradford St.
Auburn, NY
Elizabeth Panus
60 Summit Ave.
Buffalo, NY
Judith Shutter
23 lake ave
Auburn , New york
Shayla Mckeen
8798 Graham st
Weedsport , New York
745 Royal Sunset Drive
Webster, NY
Toni Fantasia
60 Garrow St
Auburn , Ny
Jacob Whiting
Head Lifeguard
Owasco Yacht Club
6 Walnut St. Ext.
Auburn , New York
Jon Wilcox
106 Swift St
Auburn, NY
Tessa Crawford
28 S. Hurd Circle
Auburn, New York
Dale rescott
waterfront director
owasco yacht club
37 Melrose Rd
Auburn, New York
Lisa Palladino
131 N Division st
Seneca Falls , NY
Jenna DeLapp
Daniel Wilbur
7074 owasco rd
Auburn , Ny
Kelly Ludemann
3341 Shingle Valley Road
Genoa, Ny
Jenny Manning
5 Grove Ave
Auburn, NY
Douglas Ward
110 North Seward Ave.
Auburn, NY
Kristin Belz
43 First Ave.
Auburn, NY
Jesse Kline
165 Van Anden Street
Auburn, NY
Loree Gagliano
12 Emma St
Auburn, NY
Cidney Beckwith
Retired Educator
133 Burtis Point Rd
Auburn, NY
Jeffrey Angus
22 Van Patten Street
Auburn, New York
susan gateley
Great Lakes Commons
14550 Lake St
sterling, ny
jeffrey lawson
105 n. lewis st.
Auburn, NY
Patrick Heery
Westminster Presbyterian Church
17 William Street
Auburn, New York
Joe Brooks
6480 East Lake Road
Auburn, NY
Ken Deschere
202 South Hill Terrace
Ithaca, New York
Pat Goff
Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service, 333 East 115th Street
Manhattan New York, NY
Jean Locey
Cornell University
1735 Ellis Hollow Rd
Ithaca, NY
William Sharfman
50 Riverside Drive
New York, New York
John McClelland
Spring Meadows Farm
139 School St..
Millerton, PA
Marc Pritsky
North Rockland HS Environmental Club
106 Hammond Road
Thiells, NY
Kat Adams
236 East 13th Street
New York, NY
Paul Packer
49 Bell Circle
Port Jefferson, NY
ed mues
greenville road
sundown, ny
Marena Gonz
26 Frederick Road
Cheryl Frank
829 Winton Rd S
Rochester , NY
Christopher Mack
100 South St.
Auburn, New York
Nancy Istock
41 Horizon Drive
Ithaca, NY
Stephen Engleman
125 Valley View Rd
Ithaca, NY
Edward Price
31 Walters Ave
Cold Spring Harbor, NY
John Burke
74 laurel Av
Sea Cliff, NY
Martin Jorgensen
1692 Ellis Hollow Rd. Apt 2
Ithaca, NY