Cayuga Lake Defense Fund

P. O. Box 294, Ithaca, NY 14851 607/275-9054, e-mail:


Previously Undisclosed EPA Documents Released by Cayuga Lake Defense Fund
Public Deliberately Misled About Secret Lake Source Cooling (LSC) Negotiations
DEC and Cornell Opposed EPA Plan to Address LSC Concerns and Curtail Lake Pollution
Hinchey and Luster Urged to Ensure Public Participation in Reopened Negotiations.

The Cayuga Lake Defense Fund today released documents revealing that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Cornell University and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) entered into secret negotiations on a Lake Source Cooling settlement that did not involve public input. All three institutions publicly disavowed the negotiations.

Richard DePaolo, spokesperson for the Cayuga Lake Defense Fund, said: "These documents prove that citizens were deliberately misled and barred from discussing serious shortcomings in the assessment of Lake Source Cooling's environmental impact as well as efforts to reverse Cayuga Lake's widespread pollution problems."

The internal documents were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. They show that the EPA proposed an agreement to Cornell and the DEC (attached) on 7/21/99 that required:

1) Development of "explicit criteria" that would be used to determine whether LSC will cause adverse impacts on Cayuga Lake;

2) Completion of an outfall relocation study to evaluate "alternative, extended outfall locations." This study would determine whether an outfall location below the "photic zone (about ten meters deep) would effectively prevent any additional loading of phosphorus from causing algal growth;"

3) "Development and implementation of project(s) to reduce diffuse loadings of phosphorus to the Lake. The main focus of this effort will be to identify nonpoint sources or similar diffuse sources of phosphorus, and to develop mitigation projects to control the source(s). This project could serve as a model to test the concept of "offsets" which is being discussed at the national level as a potential element of the permitting of new dischargers to stressed waters."

This proposal addresses key concerns voiced by the Cayuga Lake Defense Fund. First, that the assessment of LSC's water quality impact was fundamentally inadequate. Second, that the project's discharge permit was illegally granted because it would "cause or contribute" to existing water quality violations in southern Cayuga Lake. Finally, that non-point source pollution hazards, notably urban and agricultural runoff and eroded streambanks, must be controlled to reverse the degradation of Cayuga Lake.

According to a 7/22/99 EPA memo (attached) entitled: "Bad news on Cornell," Cornell reportedly "agreed generally" to proposals #1 ("criteria") and #3 ("offsets") actions without agreeing to "specifics" while opposing proposal #2 (outfall relocation study). The DEC reportedly did not support any of the three proposals.

In a document sent today by EPA to concerned citizens regarding the agency's review of LSC, neither the outfall relocation study nor the development and implementation of "offsets" project(s) to reduce diffuse loadings of phosphorus to the Lake was mentioned. The EPA document did include a provision to develop "criteria" that would be used to determine whether LSC will cause adverse impacts on Cayuga Lake, though the wording "explicit criteria" has been dropped at the urging of DEC.

Walter Hang, a resident of Ithaca who first learned of the secret negotiations during an August phone call to EPA officials, said: "The EPA must ensure that its three original proposals are undertaken as a prerequisite for granting a discharge permit to LSC." "It is inconceivable that this unprecedented wastewater discharge to Cayuga Lake has been permitted without adequate safeguards."

Hang added: "Local, state and federal elected representatives must immediately reopen negotiations on the EPA's proposal and require all discussions to include the public." Hang concluded: "It is obvious that impartial government authorities will have to lead these negotiations since Cornell, DEC and EPA have destroyed their credibility when it comes to protecting Cayuga Lake from Lake Source Cooling."

Letters were sent to Congressman Maurice Hinchey and Assemblyman Martin Luster to inform them of the documents being released and to ask them to take immediate action to reopen the negotiations with full public participation.

Finally, the Cayuga Lake Defense Fund is posting the internal EPA documents on its web site ( for public review.

Prepared by the Cayuga Lake Defense Fund (CLDF).
For more information, Call: (607) 275-9054 or 272-7914 or email

CLDF 1999