The Lake Source Cooling Project's discharge has the potential to exacerbate the lake's pollution problems in four critical ways. First, the phosphorus-rich discharge would promote the growth of plant life, intensifying existing algal blooms and weed infestations. Second, the heat that would be released into the lake by the warmed water discharge could allow algae and aquatic weeds to grow for longer or different periods and could otherwise upset the sensitive ecological balance of plant and animal species in the lake. Third, the large-scale construction activities associated with the project would release silt into the lake and increase existing turbidity problems.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Lake Source Cooling Project could worsen toxic pollution hazards that threaten Cayuga Lake. Numerous toxic sites pose known or potential threats to the lake, including former utility sites, leaking petroleum tanks and abandoned landfills. Based on monitoring undertaken by Cornell, toxic chemicals were detected on the proposed site of the heat exchange facility. Those contaminants included highly toxic lead and cadmium as well as potentially carcinogenic polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons.9
The contaminated site is evidently part of a former salt company and coal-fired power facility operated by both the Remington and Worcester Salt companies.10 A power facility reportedly owned by the New York State Electric and Gas Corp. also operated on a portion of the property.11 Part of the site is now a marina, boatyard and recreation facility that is in no way designed, constructed or maintained to prevent on-site contaminants from emanating into the adjacent lake or the environment-at-large.
Since Cornell reportedly detected toxics at the proposed heat exchange facility site, the university has essentially made no effort to publicize the contamination risk to the general public, people living near the site or thousands of people who swim, boat and windsurf at the site. Cornell also failed to investigate or remediate the on-site contamination on a comprehensive basis. Finally, the site has not been listed on either the New York State Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Site Registry or the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response and Compensation Liability Information System.