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Onondaga Lake revival earns exhibit at New York State Fair

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

The story of Onondaga Lake, once called the most polluted lake in the nation, will be told in a major interactive exhibit at the New York State Fair this year.

"We no longer have to look at it and be embarrassed, or discuss what we are going to do. Now we can look back at where we have been and where we are going," said Onondaga County Deputy Executive Matt Millea.

The exhibit will occupy an entire wing of the Center of Progress Building, and compare the past condition of the lake to it's current state. Regional Department of Environmental Conservation Director Ken Lynch says you can see the improvement just by looking at fish and wildlife that today call the lake home.

Credit Ellen Abbott/WRVO
State Agriculture Commissioner Daryl Aubertine announces the Onondaga Lake exhibit

"If you look at the fish numbers, in the early 1970s, under a dozen, to today over 65 different species," Lynch said. "They clearly are coming back and staying longer in and around the lake. And the same for the wildlife."

Lynch says the other dramatic indicators of how well the lake has come back, are decreases in the amount ammonia and phosphorus.

"You are starting to see in some of the water quality data when you look at things like phosphorus and oxygen levels, and water clarity, this lake rivals many of the finger lakes nearby, the Otisco Lakes, the Owasco Lakes," Lynch said.

Honeywell is also currently in the midst of a project to dispose of toxic chemicals from the part of the lake that was the scene of most of the industrial pollution.

The exhibit will also highlight the history of the lake going back to it's importance to Native Americans, as well as how it's impacting economic development on its southern shore today.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.