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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

Walter Hang
215 N. Cayuga Street
Ithaca, NY
Terrence Cuddy
City Councilor
City of Auburn
133 S. Hoopes Ave.
Auburn, NY
James Giannettino, Jr.
City Councilor
City of Auburn
10 Alden Ave.
Auburn, New York
Phyllis Edwards
Whitney Point, NY
Lisa Ripperton
337 Rachel Carson Trail
Ithaca, NY
Peter Specker
611 N Aurora St
Ithaca, NY
Melanie Stopyra
109 Thurber St
Syracuse, NY
Frankie DeMarco
241 Sixth Ave., #11C
New York, New York
Penny Beebe
P.O. Box 102
Freeville, New York
Eileen Gottschalk
3305 Walnut Pl NW
Salem, OR
Joan Farber
400 West 23rd St
New York, NY
David Lewis
548 Liddington Hill Rd
Harford, NY
John Given
118 Lieb Rd
S. New Berlin, NY
Judith Fitzgerald
560 West 218th Street, Apt. 6A, Apt. 6A
New York, NY
Sheryl Samuel
891 Berme Rd
High Falls, NY
Michael Ristorucci
424 E. Seneca Street, #3
Ithaca, NY
Curt Dunnam
5244 Perry City Rd.
Trumansburg, NY
Elizabeth McTiernan
citizen activist
We the People-Oswego
56 Baylis Street
Oswego, NY
judith ackerman
636 wea
nyc, ny
Sharon Osika-Michales
4411 Vinegar Hill Rd.
Skaneateles, New York
Lynda Caspe
150 Franklin Street, #7
New York, NY
Franz Sugarman
7221 Halseyville Rd.
Trumansburg , NY
Elizabeth MacFarland
568 Hervey Sunside Rd.
Cornwallville , NY
cenie cafarelli
56 Rand Place
Pittsford, NY
Erica Hart
93 William Brown Rd.
Hankins, NY
Jeffrey Dembowski
335 State Street
Albany , NY
Sheila Long
Transfiguration Monastery
701 State Route 79
Windsor, NY
Joel Chaffee
500 West 122nd St, 1H
New York, NY
margaret taylor
500 seminary row
new york, ny
Holly Adams
607 Stilson Raod
Hunt, NY
AL Hemberger
16 Garden Street
Cold Spring, NY
Neill Clenaghan
8 Acre View Dr
Northport, NY
Lazarus Boutis
4840 N Soldier Trail
Tucson, AZ
Nancy Lipshitz
321 Oquaga Lake Road
Deposit , NY
Jonathan Titus
15 Maple Ave.
Fredonia, NY
Lisa Montanus
105 Cardinal Ct
Woodstock, NY
Louis Linder
21 Pine Road
Briarcliff Manor, NY
David DeVivo
15 New England Dr.
Rochester, New York
A. Lindsay Groves
Principal Cellist, member
Symphoria, Skaneateles Lake Association
1246 Minnow Cove, PO Box 930
Skaneateles, NY
Joseph Quirk
147 Avenue A #2R
New York, New York
Leon Miller-Out
433 W Buffalo St
ITHACA, New York
Michael Pitzrick
931 DRYDEN RD, 2
Ithaca, NY
Domenica Brockman
28 Whig Street
Trumansburg, NY
Gene Polito
45 Shady Rest Dr
Sag Harbor, NY
Scott Sears
355 Pennsylvania Ave.
Trumansburg, New York
Jos. Holdner
Sierra Club, .350
Olivebridge, New York
steven foster
3906 Chatham Lane
Canandaigua, New York
Anne Lazarus
524 East 20th St. 2G
New York, NY
Aubrey Clark
774 Bunn Hill Rd
Vestal, NY
Bridget Wilson
po box 4224
ithaca, ny