A recently completed project at Onondaga Lake in New York State’s Finger Lakes proves that mercury cleanups actually do happen, even if it takes decades. Though the lake is sacred to the Onondaga Nation, severe degradation led to ice harvesting being banned as early as 1901. In 1940 swimming was banned and in 1970 fishing was banned due to mercury contamination. The lake was added to the U.S. EPA list of Superfund sites in 1994. Honeywell Corporation played a central role in cleanup.
Between the years 1946 and 1970, Allied Signal, an aerospace, automotive and engineering company, dumped approximately 165,000 pounds/74843 kilograms of mercury in the lake. Allied merged with Honeywell Corporation in 1999.
Honeywell completed dredging of 2.2 million cubic yards/1.68 million cubic meters of lake bottom sediment in 2014 and capped 475 acres/192 hectares of lake bottom with sand, gravel and topsoil in 2016. The final stage of remediation was completed in the fall of 2017 and involved restoration of 90 acres/36 hectares of wetlands, as well as deposition of underwater rock structure for fish habitat.
Honeywell is required to carry out a long-term environmental monitoring plan for the remediation project over many years. The suite of monitoring will assist in determining “performance,” or effectiveness, of the cap. Nitrate will be added to the lake bottom on an ongoing basis to assist in reducing mercury levels.
Now that the project is complete, Honeywell will be complementing the project with wildlife habitat attributes and docks for recreation, part of a separate agreement with the federal government.
- Honeywell and Onondaga Lake: A Timeline
- 2012: Geotubes Selected for Dredging Project