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1,026 Signatories to the Coalition Letter Which Requests That You Prohibit Issuance of State Permits/Authorizations for Salt Mining Under Cayuga Lake and Require a Transition to Salt Mining Only Under Dry Land

Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
The Capitol
Albany, NY 12224


I have the honor of informing you that there is now a total of 1,026 signatories to a respectful: Coalition Letter Which Requests That Governor Cuomo Prohibit Issuance of State Permits/Authorizations for Salt Mining Under Cayuga Lake and Require a Transition to Salt Mining Only Under Dry Land

As summarized here and below, the signatories constitute an impressive coalition of elected officials, distinguished academic scholars, expert geologists, representatives of dozens of community and environmental groups, physicians and other health professionals, business owners, religious leaders, philanthropists and citizens who drink water drawn from Cayuga Lake. The signatories reside on and around this historic waterbody as well as in 19 states from coast-to-coast.

Respectful Request For Immediate Action

I write today to reiterate the coalition letter's request that you take immediate action to safeguard Cayuga Lake from a potential Cargill mine disaster similar to the infamous 1994 collapse of the largest salt mine in America located in Retsof, NY, near Geneseo. I also request that you require clean up of extensive toxic contamination recently documented at the Cargill salt mine in Lansing, NY which has polluted Cayuga Lake for more than 40 years. Both of these actions are warranted in order to safeguard the source of drinking water for more than 40,000 local residents.

With those goals in mind, I respectfully request that you take the following specific actions to resolve well-documented concerns about New York's inadequate regulation of extraction mining activities, legacy toxic site remediation and water quality protection:

1) rescind Cargill's General Mining Permit that was issued on April 24, 2019 and a Shaft #4 Construction Permit that was issued on 8/16/17. Without these permits, Cargill cannot continue to mine salt under Cayuga Lake for decades to come;

2) rescind any mineral rights granted by New York State to Cargill for future salt mining under Cayuga Lake. This would require Cargill to begin to transition to mining under nearby dry land;

3) require Cargill to investigate and remediate in strict compliance with all applicable regulatory requirements sodium ferrocyanide, historic petroleum and chlorinated solvent contamination at its facility which is polluting or threatening Cayuga Lake; and

4) adopt a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) to clean up Cayuga Lake's water quality impairments that were required to be resolved as a "high priority" by New York State circa 2004 when the southern lake was first included in the National 303(d) Registry of Impaired Waters.

Please allow me to detail the rationale for these requests.

Require Cargill to Transition to Mining Salt Only Under Dry Land

On June 15, 2017, Steve Englebright, Chair of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee and a trained geologist, and Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, representative of Ithaca, convened a meeting to discuss halting Cargill salt mining under Cayuga Lake with high-level DEC staff, including Martin Brand, Julie Tighe and Matthew J. Podniesinski, Director, Bureau of Resource Development & Reclamation, Division of Mineral Resources.

I attended the meeting along with Geneseo College Geological Sciences Professor Emeritus, Richard Young, a former adviser to New York State regarding the Retsof Mine collapse, a local citizen and Assembly staff.

At that meeting, Mr. Podniesinski stated plainly and emphatically that he had long advised Cargill to end salt mining under Cayuga Lake by transferring its mining operations under nearby dry land. This stunning revelation 100% supports the coalition letter request. I promptly commended Mr. Podniesinski and said that I could not agree with him more.

See: Cargill Cayuga Mine Under Cayuga Lake Map

End Cargill Salt Mining Under Cayuga Lake Now

You have a rare opportunity to require that transition to begin now. Cargill's existing salt mine under Cayuga Lake cannot be greatly expanded without drilling a massive new ventilation Shaft #4. Since that shaft has not yet been drilled, you can assure that future Cargill salt mining is conducted only under dry land in order to protect Cayuga Lake once and for all from a potential mine collapse.

If you fulfill this request, you must also make sure that there is no connection between a new mine under dry land and the existing mine under Cayuga Lake in order to prevent flooding from spreading from one mine to another in the event of a catastrophic mine failure.

Please note that written requests to end salt mining under Cayuga Lake were sent by representatives Englebright and Lifton to DEC Commissioner Seggos.

See: New York State Assembly Members Lifton and Englebright Request Moratorium for Cargill Shaft #4 permit and Authorizations for Salt Mining Under Cayuga Lake and Assembly Representatives Lifton and Englebright Send 10/31/17 Letter Which Requests Moratorium for Cargill Salt Mine Permit Approvals

I recently documented that Cargill has begun obtaining "Salt Operating and Mining Rights Indentures" for lands near Cayuga Lake. This could involve the firm's transition to mining under dry land. Would you please clarify whether DEC is requiring Cargill to begin a transition to mining salt under dry land?

See: Cargill Leases* in the Town of Lansing, NY

Cargill's 2/7/19 "Un-Permitted" Sodium Ferrocyanide Discharge to Cayuga Lake

I recently disclosed a Cargill Notice of Violation (NOV) of SPDES Permit issued by your Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) regarding an "un-permitted" discharge of sodium ferrocyanide into Cayuga Lake that occurred on February 7, 2019. Sodium ferrocyanide is an anti-caking agent added to salt. It is non-toxic when consumed, but when released into the environment and exposed to sunlight, it can generate free cyanide and hydrogen cyanide.

Despite these grave public health and environmental concerns, DEC never alerted the public to Cargill's sodium ferrocyanide discharge even though it is located near homes and threatens drinking water drawn from Cayuga Lake. All summer long, unsuspecting citizens swam, boated and visited a nearby public beach north of the discharge location.

See: Cargill Salt, Portland Point Road: "Approximate Site Location"/"Excavation and Sampling Area"

The Source of Cargill's "Un-Permitted" Sodium Ferrocyanide Discharge Has Neither Been Comprehensively Investigated Nor Cleaned Up

The source of Cargill's "un-permitted" sodium ferrocyanide discharge has neither been investigated nor cleaned up in strict compliance with all applicable state regulatory requirements because the pollution reportedly extends under two railroad tracks. This pollution source warrants comprehensive remediation because it immediately adjoins Cayuga Lake. The environmental fate and transport of cyanide released into Cayuga Lake also has not been assessed.

See page 5: Cargill SPDES Notice of Violation (NOV) Response Activities Report - April 2019 and Photos: Cargill - Soil Sampling - 11 Petroleum Affected Test Pits

While investigating the source of its recent un-permitted sodium ferrocyanide discharge, Cargill discovered historic petroleum and trichloroethylene in soil and groundwater that has not been cleaned up on a comprehensive basis.

See: Recent Cargill Spill Profile

New York Has Repeatedly Failed to Prevent Cargill's "Un-Permitted" Cyanide and Toxic Discharges in Cayuga Lake For More Than 40 Years

As revealed by two consent orders, New York has repeatedly failed to prevent Cargill's "un-permitted" cyanide discharges into Cayuga lake since circa 1977.

See: NYSDEC vs Cargill - Consent Order November 1979 regarding SPDES Violation and NYSDEC vs Cargill - Consent Order December 1984 regarding SPDES Violation

In addition, DEC has failed for many years to require a wide array of additional reported Cargill toxic discharges to be investigated and remediated in strict compliance with all applicable regulatory requirements. This lack of regulatory enforcement is inexplicable and intolerable.

See: Selected Cargill Spills

Cargill is reportedly the largest privately-held corporation in the nation. You can have no possible rationale to allow this firm to continue to pollute an invaluable and irreplaceable Finger Lake and risk a mine collapse similar to the Retsof disaster that could devastate a critical water supply source.

Clean Up Cayuga Lake's Water Quality Impairments Without Any Further Delay

Finally, I am pleased to inform you that there are now more than 1,400 signatories to a respectful: 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

Cayuga Lake has been included in the national 303(d) registry of impaired waters and requires a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) comprehensive clean up plan as a "high priority" since at least 2004. Yet, DEC has proposed no TMDL for Cayuga Lake or Conesus and Honeoye Lakes even though these three impaired waterbodies are reportedly the top priorities for TMDLs in New York.


In conclusion, thousands of concerned citizens, knowledgeable advocates and elected officials have respectfully requested that you exercise your authority to protect Cayuga Lake and other impaired waterbodies in our state from inadequately regulated extraction mining activities, legacy toxic sites and water quality impairments that violate state and federal regulatory requirements. Please fulfill that request without further delay.

New York's failure to protect public health and the environment from well-documented pollution hazards has long received severe criticism. A favorable reply to the requests detailed herein would begin to restore public trust in critical government programs.

Thank you for your consideration. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can answer any questions, clarify my requests or cooperate with you and your colleagues.

Very respectfully yours,

Walter Hang

cc: Honorable Steve Englebright
Honorable Barbara Lifton
Honorable Donna Lupardo
Honorable Letitia James
Honorable Terrance Cuddy
Honorable James Giannettino
Honorable Richard DePaolo
Professor Richard Young
Honorable Basil Seggos
Honorable Howard Zucker
Honorable Matthew J. Podniesinski

Signatory Summary: Coalition Letter Which Requests That Governor Cuomo Prohibit Issuance of State Permits/Authorizations for Salt Mining Under Cayuga Lake and Require a Transition to Salt Mining Only Under Dry Land

Referenced Groups

Advocates for Springfield (Springfield Center, NY)
Between the Lakes Indivisible (Lodi, NY)
Cameron Committee for a Safe Enviroment (Cameron Mills, NY)
Catskilll Citizens for Safe Energy
Cayuga Lake Environmental Action Now (CLEAN)
Cayuga Lake Water Protectors
Chamber of Commerce of Ithaca and Trumansburg
Chenango Community Action for Renewable Energy
Church Women United in New York State
Citizens' Alliance for a Pristine Perinton (Fairport, NY)
Citizens' Environmental Coalition (Cuddebackville, NY)
Citizens for Local Power (Rosendale, NY)
Climate Justice
Coalition to Ban Unsafe Oil Trains (Teaneck, NJ)
Community Science Institute (Trumansburg, NY)
Compressor Free Franklin
Concerned Citizens of Cattaraugus County
Concerned Citizens of Rural Broome (Broome Co., NY)
Concerned Residents of Oxford
Deep Green Resistance (NYC)
Dryden Resource Awareness Coalition
Earthkeeper Health Resources (North Salem, NY)
Elk County C.A.R.E.S (Citizens Advocating Responsible Enivronmental Stewardship) [PA]
Enfield Neighbors for Safe Air and Water
F.A.C.T.S. (For A Clean Tonawanda Site)
Fenton Residents Against Compressor Station
Finger Lakes Zero Waste Coalition
Frack Action
Frack Free Catskills
Frack Free Genesee
Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement (Garrison, NY)
Gas Free Seneca
Hands Across the Border (Salem, NY)
High Falls Civic Association
Hudson River Watershed Alliance
ICAN (Interfaith Climate Action Network)
John Burroughs Natural History Society (Hurley, NY)
Main Street First (Little Falls, NY)
Middlefield Neighbors (Cooperstown, NY)
Milford Doers/Residents of Crumhorn Mountain
MUSE (Musicians United to Save the Environment)
NY4Whales (Tuckahoe, NY)
Orange County Peace and Justice
Orange Residents Against Pilgrim Pipelines (Orange RAPP)
Otsego 2000
People For a Healthy Environment
Pinelands Preservation
Plymouth Friends for Clean Water (South Plymouth, NY)
Protect Orange County
Protect Orange
Quassaick Creek Watershed Alliance
Ramapo/Catskill Conservation Group
Regional Action Group for the Environment (RAGE) (Perry, NY)
Residents Allied for the Future of Tioga (RAFT)
Rochester Defense Against Fracking
Rochesterians Concerned About Unsafe Shalegas Extraction (R-CAUSE)
Safe Energy Rights Group (SEnRG) (Peekskill, NY)
Sanford-Oquaga Area Concerned Citizens (S-OACC)
Sierra Club - Atlantic Chapter [Chair, Water Issues Committee]
Sierra Club - Lower Hudson Group
Sierra Club - Niagara Group
Sierra Club - Ocean County (NJ)
SOCAN (Southern Oregon Climate Action Now)
Stop The NY Fracked Gas Pipeline
Syracuse Peace Council
Transfiguration Monastery (Windsor, NY)
Tree Huggers (New Paltz, NY)
TriStates for Safe Energy
Trout Unlimited
Tusten Energy Committee (Narrowsburg, NY)
Unadilla Friends and Neighbors
VerSE (Vestal Residents for Safe Energy)
Village Independent Democrats (NY, NY)
We Are Seneca Lake
WEBSC (Western Broome Environmental Stakeholders Coalition)
WNY Peace Center Climate Justice Task Force

Additional References

3 Tompkins County Legislature members
an Oneida County Legislator
Village of Interlaken, Water Commissioner
a Town of Ithaca Conservation Board Member
a City of Ithaca Alderperson
a Town of Caroline Councilperson
a former Town of Newfield Supervisor
2 Tompkins County Progressives
a Supervisory US Park Ranger
2 geologists
a hydrogeologist
a Professor Emeritus (SUNY-Stony Brook, Medicine)
4 M.D.s
a Family Nurse Practitioner
a Professor (Cornell University)
an Associate Professor (Cornell University)
2 Professors Emeriti (Cornell University)
a Professor Emerita (Cornell University)
a Professor (Columbia University)
3 Associate Professors (Ithaca College)
a Professor Emeritus (Ithaca College)
an Associate Professor (Hobart & William Smith)
a Professor (SUNY)
a Professor (SUNY-Fredonia)
5 Professors
a Professor Emeritus (Montclair State)
2 Professors Emeriti
a Professor Emerita
a Lecturer (SUNY-Oneonta)
a PhD
a Reverend
4 Sierra Club members
2 members
a Riverkeeper member

Signatories reside in 19 states and District of Columbia (DC):