You are here

$2.1M study ordered for Cayuga Lake


3-year effort linked to CU’s cooling plant aims to limit impact of phosphorous on water

ITHACA — The New York State Depart­ment of Environmental Conservation and Cornell University announced a joint effort Friday they say will limit the impact of nu­trient phosphorous in Cayuga Lake, al­though a local environmental firm ques­tions the project.

Cornell will conduct a $2.1 million water ­quality study under the plan, which the DEC will then evaluate to determine a total maxi­mum daily load, or TMDL, of phosphorous that can be safely discharged into the lake. While the study is being conducted, the amount of phosphorus discharges from the university’s Lake Source Cooling facility will be reduced for an interim period as re­quired by the draft State Pollutant Dis­the charge Elimination System permit.

Lake Source Cooling is the process by which frigid water is drawn from the lake’s bottom — where phosphorus is present in the form of dead aquatic life and vegetation — and pumped into a heat exchanger, where it cools other water that is piped to campus to air-condition the buildings. The lake wa­ter is then returned to the shallow southern end of Cayuga Lake, about 10 feet deep, where any phosphorous in the water could be exposed to sunlight and act as natural fertilizer for algae.

Cornell willpayfor the $2.1million study, which is estimated to extend more than three years, according to Simeon Moss, deputy spokesman for the university.

“Cornell will bring together a team of ex­perts, with input from local stakeholders, to assess water quality conditions throughout entire lake, compile information re­garding the contribution of nutrients and sediment from the watershed and develop a mathematical model that links the water­shed inputs and the quality of the lake,” he said in an e-mail.

After the study is completed, the DEC will use the data to allocate phosphorus re­ductions to all dischargers, including Cor­nell. But not everyone is convinced the lake will benefit from these efforts.

“The proposed Cornell study is simply a ruse to allow Lake Source Cooling to con­tinue to pollute Cayuga Lake for years, if not decades, to come,” said Walter Hang, president of the Ithaca-based environmen­tal database firm Toxics Targeting. “It makes no sense whatsoever to have Cornell have any role in dealing with the lake’s problems. Cornell is causing the lake’s problems.”

The DEC is accepting public comments on the draft discharge permit until Friday, Nov. 16.

PDF icon PDF-version of article223.98 KB