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Mannion, Antonacci take positions on addressing Skaneateles Lake, harmful algal blooms

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
John Mannion in front of Skaneateles Lake.

Democratic candidate for New York State Senate in the 50th District, John Mannion, said the state needs a more coordinated effort to address harmful algal blooms in lakes. Mannion, a 25-year biology teacher at West Genesee High School, said volunteer groups and local representatives believe they are in a crisis situation.

Kathy Gorr said residents living alongside Skaneateles Lake, have been very concerned about its water quality since harmful algal blooms appeared last year.

“People were saying last summer could have been a one in 100-year event," Gorr said. "Well, it wasn’t.”

Toxins were detected last week in untreated water from the lake. Lourdes Camp in Skaneateles, where Mannion's son works, closed Monday because of an algae bloom.

“He was sent home early this week," Mannion said. "That was not the way he wanted to wrap up his summer work experience. That was a surprising and shocking and impactful closing.”

The state has invested $65 million in funding to reduce the blooms, but Mannion said that might not be enough. He is calling for more testing, not just of the lakes, but also of aging septic systems and the tributaries that flow into the lakes, carrying runoff from farms that can cause blooms.

"We had them last year, we had them this year, we're going to have them next year unless the funding and the coordination is there to prevent it ahead of time," Mannion said.

Mannion is running against Onondaga County Republican Comptroller Bob Antonacci for the state Senate seat being vacated by John DeFrancisco.

"We have to protect Skaneateles Lake at all costs," Antonacci said. "But it's more than just throwing money at a problem. We have to look at things like (interstate) 81."  

Antonacci said tearing down the Interstate-81 viaduct in Syracuse could create severe traffic congestion in Skaneateles and reverse any effort to clean the lake.

"I'm not sure where my opponent stands on 81," Antonacci said. "But if all of a sudden he is a proponent of knocking 81 down and sending it through the Finger Lakes, that increased traffic is going to affect water quality."

Mannion has not taken a position yet on replacing the aging Interstate-81 viaduct in Syracuse with a  community grid, tunnel or new elevated highway.

Mannion was endorsed by the New York League of Conservation Voters. Antonacci said he would have welcomed the organization to listen to him about where he stands on environmental issues.

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.