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Syracuse Crunch the first pro hockey team to play on ice made from recycled rainwater

The Syracuse Crunch is the first professional hockey team to play on ice made from recycled rainwater
Ellen Abbott
The Syracuse Crunch is the first professional hockey team to play on ice made from recycled rainwater

The Syracuse Crunch opened their season earlier this month to a record breaking crowd that watched the team win on ice made from rainwater.  The Crunch are the first professional hockey team anywhere to play on recycled rainwater.
The puck dropped on ice that looked no different than last season's.

 "There is no difference in how we put this ice down, it's just where we get the water from," said Archie Wixon with the Onondaga County Parks Department, and says the rain was collected during two different days in September. Rain that fell on the war memorial's roof.

"It's captured in roof drains and roof leaders that are part of the new roof system that we put on last year," said Wixon. " And it's delivered to central reservoirs stationed in the basement, there's three of them, they go to a main filtration system, that's in the middle of the basement.  And from there it's delivered up here through a pump system."

Now what all this does, is keep that rain from hitting the street and then heading into the county's  storm sewer system.  And that's the point.  Since 1998, Onondaga County has been under a federal order to divert rain water away from the sewage treatment system because big rain events ultimately were causing storm water pollution in Onondaga Lake.

"It's 250 million gallons we're required by law to capture by 2018 using green infrastructure,said COunty Executive Joanie Mahoney. "The 50 projects were doing this year should get us to about 50 million gallons."

"This rain water to ice idea is one of 50 projects that Mahoney promised earlier this year, that would save the rain.

"We are just about at 50 now," said Mahoney. " They are all over the county, mostly inside the city because it's to solve the problem with the sewer overflows in the city that are polluting Onondaga Lake."

And Mahoney likes how public the project is.

"We need everybody to do their own small part inside their own homes, and the project like the Syracuse Crunch skating on rainwater is a big part of our P-R campaign and at the same time we are helping to solve the problem," said Mahoney.

The story ultimately goes back to the late 80s, when Samuel Sage of Atlantic State's legal foundation led a lawsuit against the county claiming it wasn't living up to the Federal Clean Water Act.  He's impressed at how far things have come.

"The change in the political climate which has led to much better environmental solutions," said Sage. "Cheaper hopefully than the other ones, certainly cheaper from a long term energy and maintenance point of view, programs that the public will buy into, that the public likes, rather than programs that no one liked, except the engineering firms that were making lots of money.  No.  We've come a long way."

Because it's never been done before, Wixon says there are some variables with the ice they may have to tinker with.

"It's going to take us a full year to discover the seasonal differences in the rain, the chemical composition in the rain water,  And we're actually doing a study and partnership with Syracuse University that's going to tell us how the season affects the water, whether or not winds are driven from the west, different wind systems that drive it differently," said Wixon.

Crunch officials so far say the it's good ice for the team to play on. And team owner Howard Dolgon says they are totally on board with this.

"When we capture the  Calder Cup, before we drink Molson out of it, we're gonna sip the rainwater," said Dolgon.

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.