Onondaga Lake near Syracuse, New York once called “the most polluted lake in America” is now being celebrated for its restoration.
Swimmers, including east Syracuse mayor Robert Tackman and about 40 others, took a dive into Onondaga Lake, once considered one of the most polluted bodies of water in the United States.
Not since 1940 has anyone been allowed in the water until state and community leaders from the region jumped in to make the point that Onondaga Lake is now in a state of almost complete restoration.
The late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once dubbed Onondaga the “most polluted lake in America” due to industrial pollutants like heavy metals, mercury, PCBs, and pesticides.
Through superfund site spending, the cleanup has been made by dredging, and restoration of shoreline and wetlands.
Though the county’s Department of Water Environmental Protection has declared the top two-thirds of the lake swimmable, the EPA has said not so fast.
Regional administrator for the agency Judith Enck was quoted as saying that there are still over 60 places where storm water and even untreated sewage can flow into the lake.
Residents, however, applauded the cleaner water and are happy with the ongoing efforts to clean the lake and keep it that way.
Kathy Speed, 66, of nearby Liverpool, New York -one of the many swimmers- said that when she was a child she was told her skin would fall off if she went in the water. She was nonetheless ecstatic about the swim.