Water issues in Central New York and the region

Onondaga Lake

A major ongoing local engineering project implemented by Honeywell International and Parsons Engineering is the mitigation of mercury contamination in the restoration of Onondaga Lake. The lake restoration was completed in 2016. We continue to evaluate long-term changes in the mercury content in the water column and biota of the lake. We are working on an article on the recovery of mercury in fisheries in the lake. I continue to work with Honeywell to communicate information on the restoration of the lake to the public.

Harmful Algal Blooms

In recent years, the frequency, magnitude, and duration of harmful algal blooms (HABs) events have increased in U.S. inland lakes, most prominently in upstate New York. This is likely a manifestation of changing climate. Cyanotoxins produced by HABs pose significant threats to public and aquatic ecosystem health. HABs events were reported for over 150 ponds, reservoirs, and lakes in New York in 2020. Skaneateles Lake is the main drinking water supply of Syracuse with a filtration avoidance agreement. Skaneateles has recently experienced severe HAB episodes. We have two research projects on nutrient inputs from tributaries and atmospheric deposition, and legacy nutrients in sediments in Skaneateles Lake (with C. Scholz Earth Science), funded by the Skaneateles Lake Association. I have given several general audience presentations on HABs.

Flooding in Lake Ontario

In 2017 and 2019 Lake Ontario experienced substantial flooding.  I have given several interviews and general audience presentation on this issue. With Liz Carter (new faculty in CEE), we wrote a general audience article on the causes and the need for adaptation to changing water stage in Lake Ontario (Driscoll et al. 2020).

I am involved in analysis of a large mercury contaminated river/estuary ecosystem, the Penobscot River and Estuary in ME. This contamination occurred in the late 1960s and has been the subject of a litigation in U.S. District Court in Maine between the Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC) and a chemical company. I have conducted a detailed analysis of the contamination and made recommendations to the court on remediation strategies, and have been an expert witness in the case.  I continue to advise NRDC and the Court as a consultant on the Penobscot River/Estuary restoration effort. Data from this contamination was used by students in the CEE senior capstone design class this spring (2020) to analyze a remediation approach for the river/estuary (thin layer capping).


Driscoll, C. T., E. Carter and R. Schultz. 2020. Recent Lake Ontario flooding: Causes and consequences. Great Lakes/Seaway Review, 48(3):35-40. https://www.harborhouse.com/digital/SRJyF2B.