Many of you local to central New York are familiar with Onondaga Lake, and how once upon a time it was a destination of great beauty. If you research the history of the lake, you’ll find that traditionally it was a sacred place. A place of peace where different nations of Native Americans came together and accepted a message of peace – to lay down their weapons and form the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Due to industrial developments throughout the years, by 1940, swimming in the lake was banned, and in 1970 fishing was banned due to mercury contamination. In 1973, the passage of the Clean Water Act closed the major industrial polluters near the lake, but Onondaga Lake is still one of the most polluted lakes in the United States.
One of the biggest sources of pollution for Onondaga Lake is the sewage waste-water. Sadly, for years Syracuse dumped sewage into the lake with little to no treatment. This has led to excessive algae growth in the lake (because of the high levels of ammonia and phosphorus.) Due to the excess algae and bacteria, the level of oxygen dropped in the lake killing off the fish and plants.
Sadly sewage can enter into the water without being dumped. If homeowners do not maintain their septic sewage systems the overflow from heavy rain or melting snow can push the sewage systems beyond their capacity. The overflow runs off into Onondaga Creek and Harbor Brooke; eventually reaching the lake.
Currently there is a 15 year multi-stage program under way to help clean up the lake. The “Vision for a Clean Onondaga Lake” states that the waters, plants, and animals of the lake (fish, birds, and other animals) are an intrinsic part of the peoples existence. The goal of the restoration is to make the lake a personal responsibility. Everyone working together to make sure that the lake is clean enough so that people can enjoy the water, eat its fish, and even swim in it again.
Already some efforts of the cleanup have been effective. The ammonia levels have dropped and more fish species are starting to maintain and thrive. In fact, in certain areas of the lake, bald eagles have been spotted – which means that they know that fishing is good.
It’s so fantastic to watch our city work towards fixing the ecosystem of the lake. It’s a tragedy that such an important and beautiful part of our city has suffered from years of abuse and various kinds of pollution. If you are concerned about your septic system and how it might be overflowing into the lake or nearby creeks we will come out -at no charge- for a septic system inspection. We’d love to help share solutions to minimize the overflow that can easily happen during certain times of the year. We are experts with sewer and storm water, and more importantly, we are part of our Syracuse community.
If you have any questions, please call or schedule an appointment online.