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New report suggests toxins released during dredging may be harmful to public health

Honeywell is set to restart the Onondaga Lake dredging project Wednesday. This time, with new measures in place to prevent the smell many neighboring communities have complained about. A new report by Minnich and Scotto, Inc., out this week suggests toxins released during the process are a much bigger concern than the stench.
Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- Honeywell is set to restart the Onondaga Lake dredging project Wednesday. This time, with new measures in place to prevent the smell many neighboring communities have complained about.

A new report by Minnich and Scotto, Inc., out this week suggests toxins released during the process are a much bigger concern than the stench.

Lynda Wade and the Camillius Clean Air Coalition describe the smell like that of mothballs and body odor.

“It’s a punch in the face. The minute you open the door you run back inside,” said Wade. “We've been woken up out of our sleep, woken up at one or two in the morning and the smell is so bad and then you're running around shutting your kids' bedroom windows because you don't know what's happening to their lungs.”

The wastebed is within a mile of the Wade family's home, where the Coalition says the chemical smell is the strongest.

A DEC spokesperson wrote in a statement: "Short and long-term air monitoring is being conducted in accordance with a Community Health and Safety Plan and data is continuously reviewed by DEC, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The data collected to date does not indicate a community health concern; all levels are lower than concentrations established for the protection of public health."

However, the new report contradicts the EPA's findings. In the long term, scientists at Minnich and Scotto, INC are predicting chemicals in the air could increase the risk of cancer.

The group was commissioned by the Camillius Clean Air Coalition, and the report was paid for by the Town of Camillus.

“Those safe numbers that were established by the DEC have been exceeded - or will be exceeded in the community for long term exposure in some cases by factors of nine - so nine times more than is acceptable,” said Timmothy Minnich, who wrote the report.

It’s a finding Minnich says he's prepared to defend in federal court.

A Honeywell spokesperson says they're following the state and federal cleanup plan.

In a written statement to NewsChannel 9, Honeywell says: "[We're] undertaking the Onondaga Lake cleanup under the supervision, and at the direction of, federal and state regulatory agencies. A key part of the cleanup is the Community Health and Safety Plan, which was reviewed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the New York State Department of Health, and approved by DEC. The plan establishes standards and procedures for the protection of residents in surrounding communities.”

But Lynda Wade and the Coalition have never been convinced that plan is safe. With the new report, their hope now is for a federal injunction to stop the dredging before it starts on Wednesday.

A DEC spokesperson says, "Coordinating with EPA and NYSDOH, DEC will thoroughly review the report. However, the report appears to be based on many assumptions and predictions rather than actual air quality data that has been collected on the site and in the community over the past year."

Congressman Dan Maffei is also weighing in. In a statement Maffei said, “Clean air and clean water are absolute necessities for Central New York communities. Given the information contained within this report and what we have been hearing from Camillus residents, this issue needs to be reexamined so that any necessary changes can be made to make certain that the surrounding neighborhoods are safe places for our kids and their families.”

Honeywell and the DEC have taken steps to reduce the dredging smell. The steps include installing a 35 foot tall windscreen and a floating cover over the entire East Basin. They’re also encouraging neighbors to help plant trees to create a vegetation barrier.

Data from the onsite monitoring stations is available here: www.lakecleanup.com/health-and-safety/air-monitoring.

The DEC's full response to the new report:

"Working with EPA and NYSDOH, DEC developed a comprehensive air monitoring program that demonstrates the project is meeting health-based limits established by State and Federal regulatory agencies to be protective of the surrounding community. DEC and its partners review daily data collected at eight real‐time air monitoring stations surrounding the entire perimeter of the Sediment Consolidation Area (SCA) site and three real‐time monitoring stations along the lakeshore. The data shows air quality is well below the short‐term criteria established for this project to provide protection to the surrounding community.

"Long‐term chemical monitoring data is also collected at four air monitoring stations at the SCA. While 12 months of data is necessary for direct comparison to the long‐term air quality criteria, individual sampling results are considered and used to guide decisions as the project progresses. Using all available data to date, all monitoring stations have average concentrations below the long‐term air quality criteria for all compounds.

Coordinating with EPA and NYSDOH, DEC will thoroughly review the report. However, the report appears to be based on many assumptions and predictions rather than actual air quality data that has been collected on the site and in the community over the past year."


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