Size and location: Onondaga Lake is located along the northern side of the City of Syracuse in Onondaga County, New York. The lake covers an area of 4.6 square miles (11.9 square kilometers). The lake receives water from a drainage basin of 248 square miles (648 square kilometers), located almost entirely within Onondaga County.
Why is it important to protect Onondaga Lake?
Onondaga Lake is an important resource for the people of central New York State. It provides recreational opportunities and supports fish and wildlife populations. Restoration of the lake will ensure these uses are fully supported.
Nature of EPA involvement
EPA provides funding and technical assistance to various state agencies and regional organizations. In the past, EPA participated through the Onondaga Lake Management Conference and now participates through the Onondaga Lake Partnership.
Excessive nutrient loading from a large municipal discharge causing eutrophic (shallow, murky water with concentrations of plant nutrients causing excessive production of algae) and low-oxygen conditions
- Combined sewer overflows of untreated sewage and debris, generating concerns about bacteria
- Mercury and other hazardous materials in the sediment, water, and living organisms from past manufacturing operations
- Low dissolved oxygen levels, high turbidity levels, elevated levels of ammonia and salinity, reduced plant life, and unsuitable substrate, which have adversely affected aquatic organisms
- Sediment loading from the Tully Valley Mudboils [4 pages]
Actions taken or proposed
In 1989, Congress appropriated funds for EPA to convene the Onondaga Lake Management Conference. Subsequently, the Great Lakes Critical Programs Act of 1990 called for the establishment of a management conference for the restoration, conservation, and management of Onondaga Lake, as well as the development of a comprehensive restoration conservation, and management plan for Onondaga Lake that recommends priority corrective action and compliance schedules for the cleanup of the lake.
The Water Resource Development Act of 1999 established the Onondaga Lake Partnership to develop and implement projects for the environmental restoration, conservation, and management of Onondaga Lake. This partnership replaced the Management Conference. Responsibility for the establishment and leadership of the partnership was delegated to the Secretary of the Army. Members include representatives of the EPA, the State of New York, Onondaga County and the City of Syracuse. These members coordinate actions in accordance with the Onondaga Lake Management Plan to restore, conserve and manage the lake. Funding for projects is shared between federal and non-federal entities. The Partnership consists of federal, state, local, public and private interests.
Onondaga Lake was placed on EPA's Superfund National Priorities List on December 16, 1994.
- EPA's Onondaga Lake Superfund page
- New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Onondaga Lake Superfund page.
Onondaga Lake Bike Trail Human Health Risk Assessment
In order to determine the cancer risks and non-cancer hazards associated with exposure to surface soil contamination from the future use of the "Wastebeds 1-8 site" for a recreational bike trail, a human health risk assessment (HHRA) was released in January 2009. This HHRA identifies the potential exposure pathways by which populations may be exposed to site-related contamination, the toxicity of the chemicals that are present, and the potential for cancer risks and non-cancer health hazards from exposure to those chemicals. (Please note that Appendices C-H are not available on-line, and refer to the fact sheet below for contact information should you wish to obtain copies of those documents.)
- Full Text of Risk Assessment [PDF 130K, 21 pp]
- Appendix A (Bike Trail Route and Sampling Locations) [PDF 1.6M, 2 pp]
- Appendix B [PDF 318K, 55 pp]
- Fact Sheet [PDF 34K, 2 pp]
Onondaga Lake Partners
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- City of Syracuse
- New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
- New York State Department of Law
- County of Onondaga
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers