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, 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 2019. 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, funded by the Skaneateles Lake Association. I have given several general audience presentations on HABs.

Flooding in Lake Ontario

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

Figure 1. Time series of lake stage in Lake Ontario.  Construction of the Moses-Saunders dam and implementation of a stage regulation plan greatly reduced the variability of lake levels, particularly low lake levels. Note the particularly high lake levels associated with flooding in 2017 and 2019.

Figure 2. Water budgets for the Great Lakes including inputs and losses (modified after Neff and Nicholas 2005).