Onondaga Lake Beach Feasibility Study Released. Cost would Exceed $2.46 Million
Onondaga County residents filed into a public meeting today at Salina Town Hall to learn more about the results of a feasibility study to the prospects of developing a public beach in the Willow Bay area of Onondaga Lake Park. Renderings of a sandy and sprawling beach with people and wading in the water were shown with a large bath house, a new playground and picnic areas.
The preliminary numbers for 75% of construction costs – excluding the foundation of the beach house – is $2.46-million dollars. Residents were directed to speak with experts at tables to ask questions and address their concerns which were shared in a group setting at the conclusion of the break-out sessions. Expert Betsy Henry shared that people wanted additional testing in the area where the beach is proposed.
“… and in particular, for hazardous chemicals. The data we have are in the vicinity and there is nothing to suggest there is a risk but, I think what I’ve heard is a recommendation for additional testing in the sediment and for the water quality.”
Despite the millions spent to remediate and cap the lake by Honeywell and the State DEC’s statement in January 2019 stating, “A beach on Onondaga Lake is now a real possibility, thanks to the significant improvements in lake water quality evident for more than a decade, and the recent completion of the Onondaga Lake remediation,” many attendees today expressed they’re against the idea.
Irene Workman is from the Town of Onondaga. She told us that she’s been studying the beach idea for over a year.
“I am questioning what they’re putting out. For instance, the water quality table… one would think they’re measuring more than just bacteria in a lake that’s a superfund site and it’s filled with toxic chemicals, heavy metals. Ask them (experts at tables) have you done sediment testing at Willow Bay and they said we’ve done adjacent sediment testing. Well, adjacent isn’t Willow Bay, is it? It’s not the same thing and when kids go in there and they’re stirring up the dirt, when they go to splash and swim and wade, what’s under there and they can’t answer that question for me.”
When John Mannion isn’t campaigning to become State Senator, he's a full-time Science Teacher at West Genesee High School. He’s not supportive of any swimming in Onondaga Lake, at this time. Manion believes the lake has uninhabitable levels of mercury and other toxins that have not been entirely remediated.
“I think science has to dictate where we go here (with the proposed beach project) and data has to dictate where we’re going. We have if not one of the highest rates of MS (Multiple Sclerosis) in the country and I’m not saying that that’s a direct correlation between the mercury levels that were present in the lake but, I am saying it should be concerning and it should be looked and that’s just one factor; there’s multiple factors involved here before any decisions are being made that should be looked at.”
Saturday was the third public meeting that was held since January 2019. According the draft feasibility study released this weekend, a survey asking more than 2,000 respondents in 2019 expressed a beach at Onondaga Lake was reasonable with nearly 32,000 visitors annually.
Will the beach idea ever advance? The final decision after public input is received would be made by County Executive Ryan McMahon and the County Legislature. Public comments and questions will be accepted by Onondaga County’s Office of the Environment through April 1st and could be extended. The office headed by Travis Glazier plans to research and answer all questions. To read the full draft of the Onondaga Lake Beach Feasibility Study and results from the previous two public meetings click here.
This story has been updated with copy corrections.