Onondaga Lake's mercury levels dropping more than expected

Dec 11, 2012

Even though dredging and capping operations to clean up contamination in Onondaga Lake is in its early stages, a scientist consulting on the project says mercury levels are dropping better than expected.

Honeywell only began its dredging and capping operations on a part of the lake this summer, but Syracuse University professor Charles Driscoll says the decrease in mercury levels found in fish in the lake is "unbelievable" compared to where they were about four years ago.

Dredging equipment sits on Onondaga Lake this summer.
Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO

"Now we have a ways to go; they’re still above advisory levels," he says.

Onondaga Lake became contaminated due to nearby industrial operations and chemical production. A federal lawsuit required Allied Chemical, since purchased by Honeywell, to reduce PCB, benzene and mercury levels in the lake. The $451 million remediation project will take about five years.

With just one year of that work in the books, Driscoll foresees increasingly better numbers.

"We anticipate they will continue to drop," he says of mercury levels.