Good news: People may soon be able to swim in Onondaga lake without growing an extra limb!
How is this possible, after over 125 years of industrial and chemical operations using the lake as a dumpster for pesticides and heavy metals like lead, cobalt, and mercury?
The new dredging project led by Honeywell International could be part of the answer. Dredging basically involves scooping-up the contaminated dirt in the bottom of the lake and pumping it away.
This process may sound simple, but it will take the efforts of over 500 local scientists, engineers, and skilled craft laborers.
The project has been underway since 2005, but the newest phase where sludge is actually being pumped from the bottom of the lake began June 30th.
That huge crane contraption that looks like it is producing some top-secret government missile is actually Honeywell’s dredge. Named Marlin, it will dig as much as 9 feet in some areas to remove lake bottom contaminated with heavy metals and other chemicals. After the pollutants are scooped out, pipes will carry them four miles to a disposal site in Camillus, New York.
Marlin and three smaller dredges will help dispose of some 2 million cubic yards of polluted sediment. The dredging process is expected to last four years
A 5 year capping process will follow the dredging and replace the polluted lake bottom with enough fresh, uncontaminated material to fill two Carrier domes.
You can see the huge piles of sand and gravel just south of Exit 7 now that will be used in the capping process. This lifeless material will create a base for large stones and logs added after the capping to house fish.
For the first two years, the cleanup will focus on the southern side of the lake off I-690 West. The entire project is expected to last until 2016.
Of course SUNY ESF has something to do with this. Its role with Honeywell involves restoring wetlands around the lake that are essential to its recovery. This will involve planting 1.2 million shrubs, trees, and other plants.
So that you can marvel at all Honeywell is doing to cleanup the lake (and feel empowered to buy more of their products, of course), part of the project also involves constructing an observation deck near Exit 7.
Honeywell may not be doing this cleanup entirely for PR, however. The dredging process alone will cost the company $500 million. Honeywell has also done their homework. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Health have approved every aspect of the project.
So although Marlin may not be the best looking addition to the lake now, it will hopefully help revive it as a source of pride for the community.
- Shannon Hazlitt