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Onondaga County will front portion of Lower Ley Creek cleanup plan

Tom Magnarelli
Onondaga County Legislator Mike Plochocki during a vote to approve fronting a portion of the funding for the Ley Creek cleanup plan.

The Onondaga County Legislature has agreed to contribute its share in funding a plan to clean up a portion of Ley Creek, which is polluted with toxic chemicals. The money will be reimbursed to the county by the company responsible for the pollution.

Onondaga County Legislator Mike Plochocki said for many years, General Motors had a plant on Ley Creek that polluted the area with toxic chemicals.

“If we lived in a fair world, GM would be responsible for cleaning all of this up," Plochocki said. "But we don’t live in an entirely fair world. Even though GM is responsible for the vast majority of the pollution there, there is potential that some other parties, the county of Onondaga being one of them, simply because we own land there, could be liable as well."

As part of a bankruptcy agreement, GM has set aside $20 million to clean Lower Ley Creek. But to get to that phase of the project, Onondaga County, one of seven parties involved, will be fronting the cost of a remedial plan. The parties, made up of industrial and municipal players, will each pay about $250,000 for the design and will be reimbursed by the GM fund.

"All of these parties were asked to front this money, for the design that the EPA has asked," Plochocki said. "The EPA has said, ‘We know what remedy we want in the area. We know what we want the cleanup to look like in the end. Now we want a design put forward.’"

The question now is: Will the $20 million from the GM fund be enough to pay for the cleanup, or will taxpayers be on the hook? The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the total cleanup will cost $17 to $25 million.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.