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Old 07-05-2005, 08:49 PM   #1
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Onondaga Lake cleanup decision by state DEC due today

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Onondaga Lake cleanup decision by state DEC due today


Federal judge rejects Onondaga Nation's request to delay ruling for 30 days.

Friday, July 01, 2005

By Mark Weiner

Staff writer
A federal judge Thursday denied a last-minute request from the Onondaga
Nation to intervene in the state's 16-year-old lawsuit against Onondaga Lake's
biggest industrial polluter.
If the request had been granted, the Onondaga Nation would have asked for a
temporary restraining order against the state, preventing a final decision due
today about the lake's industrial cleanup.
Joseph Heath, a Syracuse lawyer representing the Onondagas, said the nation
wanted the state Department of Environmental Conservation to delay its
decision for 30 days.
The delay would have allowed the Onondagas and their consultants to finish
making their case for changes to the state's proposed $451 million cleanup plan
for the lake.
The state wants Honeywell International to pay for the work. The company is
responsible for pollution left behind by the Allied Chemical plant in Solvay
that closed in 1986.
After a conference call Thursday in which U.S. District Judge Frederick J.
Scullin declined to hear arguments about the request to intervene, the state
was cleared to make its decision in the case.
Heath said any decision in support of the proposed cleanup will leave the
lake polluted with toxic chemicals on its bottom even after the cleanup.
"This is not a proper remedy and is not compliant with the law," Heath said
Thursday. "There are rights here that are being trampled and ignored. And it's
not just about the nation. All of the people in Central New York are being
shortchanged in a big way."
A DEC spokesman in Albany said the state will go ahead and make its decision
on the cleanup today.
"We're under court order to make a decision by July 1," said spokesman
Michael Fraser.
The Onondagas raised concerns about the cleanup plan in February, prompting
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to recommend the state delay its
decision from April 1 to July 1.
The EPA said it wanted to make sure the Onondagas had a chance to fully
evaluate the state's proposed $451 million, seven-year plan for dredging and
capping contaminated sediment on the lake floor.
Since then, the Onondagas hired Stratus Consulting of Boulder, Colo., an
environmental consulting firm that has worked with the United Nations, World
Bank and EPA.
A report from the company submitted to the DEC Wednesday concluded that the
state's recommended cleanup plan is not sufficient, Heath said.
"They would leave so many toxics in the bottom of the lake that it would
still be a Superfund site," Heath said.
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