© 2021 WRVO Public Media
Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Contaminated sediment to be dredged in Onondaga Lake

A major step in the clean up of Onondaga Lake is about to begin. Honeywell International will begin the dredging and capping of contaminated lake sediment this summer.

On a windswept day with water lapping the shore, kayaks gliding by and geese taking flight, officials marked the formal start of the dredging and capping of polluted Onondaga Lake sediment.

Three giant barges now sit on the lake and are expected to be fully operational by mid-July.

Honeywell Senior Vice President Kate Adams says the dredges are like giant vacuum cleaners sucking up sediment contaminated from years of industrial pollution.

The high-tech dredging operation should keep the mercury, benzene and PCBs contained and under control.

"'We're using a closed system. So that means the material is being hydraulically lifted into a closed pipe and in that closed pipe will be brought up into the containment area, so there's a low risk of that. But there are emergency plans in place to address any potential leakage if that were to occur," Adams said.

This is part of a $451 million Superfund remediation and should continue for five years according to New York state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens.

"At the end of the dredging period the lake will be yet cleaner, and we will be another step on the way to the lake being a swimmable body of water," Martens said.

Most of the work will be visible on the western part of the lake, where pollution is the greatest.