Clean Up One of America’s Most Polluted Lakes

Target: Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York State

Goal: Reduce levels of pollution in New York’s Onondaga Lake.

Onondaga Lake is a lake near Syracuse, New York long considered sacred by the Onondaga, a sub-group of the Iroquois. It’s also one of the most polluted lakes in the United States. A hundred years’ worth of industrial effluent and untreated sewage has made its way into the lake, fouling it with chemicals like benzene, toluene, xylene, chloride, various hydrocarbons and pesticides, PCBs, ammonia, phosphorus, sodium, and heavy metals, including lead. The pollution of the lake has also caused eutrophication and de-oxygenation in its waters, leading to dangerous algae blooms and die-offs of aquatic organisms.

Since the 1990s, with Congress’s creation of the Onondaga Lake Management Conference, there have been commendable efforts to clean up the lake by removing chemical pollution and managing sediments. This has lead to the return of a number of cold-water fish species, such as the lake sturgeon. However, the lake still remains unacceptably polluted, a fact which has led to major economic and environmental costs for communities living in its vicinity, as well as for New York State as a whole — it has taken decades and billions of dollars to restore the lake to its current, semi-healthy state.

Even now, swimming in the lake is still discouraged by some scientists, with swimming in the southern part of the lake especially warned against—both the Upstate Freshwater Commission and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation say that region of the lake is still too polluted for recreation. Trash continues to wash up on Onondaga’s shores and, as of this year, fishing is still restricted in the entire lake because of high levels of mercury and PCBs. Sign this petition to urge the state of New York to increase efforts to make Onondaga’s waters clean and safe.


Dear Governor Cuomo,

While efforts over the past few decades to clean up the sacred Onondaga Lake are commendable, and have led to definite increases in the health of its ecosystems and the usability of its waters, mainly for swimming, both its water and sediments remain unacceptably polluted—high levels of chemical contaminants are still present in its fish—and litter continues to wash up on its shores.

One last sincere and coordinated push needs to be made to completely restore the lake to its pre-polluted state through the removal of industrial waste and untreated sewage from its waters. This entails a removal of toxic chemicals and heavy metals, so that recreation and fishing become possible, and non-harmful, for both Onondaga’s ecosystem and those living in its vicinity.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: R.A. Nonenmacher

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  1. Gen Lovyet Agustsson says:

    clean your lakes!


  3. There is No Planet B. This lake and surrounding area have been abused and ignored by the EPA. We cannot live without water. Clean it now! Make it a priority.

  4. Lisa Zarafonetis says:

    Signed & Shared

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