What: Public Input Session re: City-County Creek /Sewage Deal
When: 6:30 PM Thursday, April 19, 2007
Where: Common Council chambers, City Hall, Syracuse

10 Reasons for Common Council to not approve the Deal

Input Denied. The Deal allows the County to build its RTFs and other CSO abatement projects without any further input from the City about the design, placement, or technology of those facilities, even though new data calls into question the effectiveness of some of those projects.

Lawsuits. The deal requires the City to join any lawsuit brought against the County for the ACJ projects. They will be required to fight their own residents.

Unnecessary. Every point and agreement in this deal is framed within the context of addressing the requirements of the 1998 Amended Consent Judgement. If the ACJ were to change significantly, this Deal in its current form would be unnecessary and its provisions would waste taxpayer dollars.

The ACJ can be amended. The projects agreed to in the ACJ can, and have been in the past, change to reflect incorporation of new information into project design. The 2012 deadline for project completion is not set in stone either. Given good reason, such as better technological solutions or new scientific data, the State and Atlantic States Legal Foundation (ASLF) can agree to change the deadline.

Better, cheaper solutions. In 2002 the City, ASLF, the County, and the Partnership for Onondaga Creek sat down at the negotiating table and came up with more ecologically and socially reasonable alternatives to the County’s plans. The County rejected the alternatives based on the rationale that the County’s plans cost less, by $5,000 – $10,000. Since the end of those negotiations, the cost of the Midland RTF has more than doubled to $122 million. The cost of the Clinton RTF in Armory Square has increased by 60% without having a shovel in the ground! This alone is significant enough to demand a return to the table for all parties involved, as it is the taxpayers who will pay for these increases.

New data. Recent detailed analysis of the County’s Onondaga Creek water quality data by Dr. Donald Hughes, Project Scientist at the Onondaga Environmental Institute, has revealed a surprising finding – levels of bacteria in the creek are not correlated with storm events / combined sewer overflows (CSOs). High levels of bacteria exist in the creek at all times. Further study is needed to determine the source, but it is clear that CSO solutions will not be enough to improve water quality.

The community wants a clean creek – and the County’s current plans won’t deliver. Over 450 people attended public input meetings associated with the Onondaga Environmental Institute’s Onondaga Creek Revitalization Plan project. When asked about their goals for the future of Onondaga Creek, participants notably express a desire for a clean creek. The theme of “clean” is in the top five most frequently expressed goals for six of the seven Community Forums held in 2006. Clean water and a clean creek is the top goal of those participating in Forums on the Southside of Syracuse.

The Onondaga Creek Revitalization Plan will be released in Fall, 2007. This 3-year visioning project incorporates significant community input into recommendations for revitalizing Onondaga Creek. Further design work on the County’s facilities should be halted until the plan is released, so that the facilities can incorporate the new information and support implementation rather than being a roadblock.

Environmental Injustice. The County’s current plans, as enshrined by this deal, locate two major sewage plants in predominantly minority neighborhoods. The Midland RTF may not be able to be stopped at this point, but the injustice should not be allowed to continue with the Harbor Brook RTF, which is located next to a struggling school with a significant Hispanic population. Mitigation money should be provided to the Southside for Midland and to Harbor Brook for the conveyances which are needed, but the RTF plans should be tabled until better options are explored.

A wealth of experts being ignored. We have a wealth of knowledge and interest in the situation sitting on the hill above Onondaga Creek. It is time to bring experts from Syracuse University and the State College of Environmental Science and Forestry together with the County and other stakeholders to solve the problems this problem.

For these and many other reasons, the City should not approve the current deal. Instead, the City should bring everyone back to the table, including the State, County, ASLF, Partnership for Onondaga Creek, the Onondaga Environmental Institute, and planners from SU and SUNY ESF to work with a mediator and develop a deal that will be a source of pride and revitalization for our community, instead of a source of continuing contention, ecological degradation and environmental injustice. Do it right!

Lindsay Speer
Community Organizer
716 East Washington Street, Suite 104
Syracuse, NY 13210-1502
Email: lspeer@mrss.com