pollution

Great Lakes plan to combat marine debris

Dec 2, 2016
Elizabeth Miller / Great Lakes Today

A conference in Cleveland is tackling marine debris, the pieces of plastic that wash up on the river, ocean, or Great Lake shores. It's a issue that has affected the health and appearances of beaches around the world.

Marine debris also has a deadly effect on wildlife, especially birds.

“They can get entangled in fishing line or balloon string,” says Jill Bartolotta, an educator with Ohio Sea Grant. “They also eat plastic because they think its fish or a food item, which will eventually cause them to starve to death.”

Jaime / Flickr, Creative Commons

Saturday is Drug Take Back Day for people across the country. Educators with a program out of Cornell University and SUNY are particularly urging people who live near the Great Lakes to bring leftover prescription drugs to nearby collection sites.

Helen Domske, with Sea Grant New York, says unused prescription drugs are often dumped down the drain or the toilet. That means antibiotics, hormones and vitamins are making their way into our waterways, threatening marine life.

Green vs. gray: how can trees clean up the Great Lakes?

Oct 11, 2016
Elizabeth Miller / Great Lakes Today

A big threat to the Great Lakes comes from outdated sewer systems that can carry bacteria into waterways, and lead to closed beaches and drinking water warnings. Now, some cities are fighting back – with trees.

In nearly 200 communities, sewer systems handle both stormwater and sewage. When it rains a lot, these systems get overloaded, and untreated water -- or sewage -- runs into the Great Lakes or nearby streams and rivers.  

“These outflows happen up to 82 times per year at some spots in Cleveland,” says U.S. Forest Service scientist Michelle Kondo.

Dogs sniff out pollution along Great Lakes

Oct 1, 2016
Rebecca Thiele / WMUK

In the town of Bridgman, Mich., investigators Sable and Kenna sniff samples from storm water drains near a beach. Sable is a 10-year-old German Shepherd, while Kenna, a Golden Retriever, is 2.

The dogs have been trained to sniff out polluted water, says Karen Reynolds, co-founder of Environmental Canine Services.

“If they smell any contamination that indicates human source bacteria, then they will give an alert,” Reynolds said. “Sable barks when he smells that and Kenna will sit.”

Associated Press

Plastic debris is pervasive in the waters that feed the Great Lakes, according to a new study published by the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

The study found widespread microplastics in 29 tributaries, with the highest concentrations in the Huron River in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the Buffalo River in Buffalo.

Microplastics are fibers and beads that come from decomposing bottles, bags, clothing, and even some cosmetic products.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

The Onondaga County Legislature has agreed to contribute its share in funding a plan to clean up a portion of Ley Creek, which is polluted with toxic chemicals. The money will be reimbursed to the county by the company responsible for the pollution.

Thirsty Planet, from American RadioWorks

Jun 22, 2016
American RadioWorks/APM

Scientists say most people on Earth will first experience climate change in terms of water -- either too much or too little. This documentary, from American RadioWorks, explores some of the most salient problems and solutions regarding water by visiting two countries where water issues are critical: India and Israel.

A vast and ecologically diverse country, India suffers from water problems found across the globe: flooding, drought, pollution and lack of access by the poor.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Some Ithaca residents are starting a grass roots effort to get products that contain microbeads banned in Tompkins County.  

A group called Plastic Tides has been trying to raise awareness about plastic pollution for three years. The effort has involved some statewide research last year that showed 70 percent of water samples including Cayuga Lake, Oneida Lake, the Erie Canal and Mohawk River, contained microbeads.  

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

Onondaga County's Lakeview Amphitheater comes to life tonight for the first time, when country star Miranda Lambert takes the stage. Many in the community hail the entertainment venue, along the shores of Onondaga Lake, as an economic engine for years to come. But there are still environmental concerns from one front, about the choice to build a stage on top of 80 feet of industrial waste beds. 

"We’re very concerned that we have lost a chance to clean up next to the lake,” said Joe Heath, who has been the attorney for the Onondaga Nation for more than three decades.

Matt Richmond / WSKG News

Regulators in New York are moving ahead with a plan to prohibit hydrofracking within its borders. In the latest step, the state released its final environmental review last week. And New York’s unique stance on fracking could have wide-ranging effects.

borisvolodnikov / Flickr

A report released this spring labels much of Onondaga Lake as swimmable, and Onondaga County officials say this report should be a springboard to further discussions about the future of the lake.  

The Upstate Freshwater Institute says the northern two-thirds of the lake, that was once called the most polluted in the country, is swimmable. Tom Rhoads, Onondaga County’s Water and Environment Protection Commissioner, says that doesn’t necessarily mean residents should grab their swimsuits and jump in.

Ithaca gun factory site in decontamination mode

Apr 9, 2015
SAMUEL WHITEHEAD / WSKG

From 1885 to 1986, the Ithaca Gun Company produced shotguns in a hillside factory northeast of downtown Ithaca. The factory’s smokestack still overlooks the city and Ithaca Falls. 

In the years since, the site has been the focus of extensive environmental remediation. Now, stakeholders are approaching the beginning of the end of the cleanup.

Rivers on drugs

Mar 4, 2015
Brian Caird / WRVO file photo

They're beautiful on the surface, but, our rivers are on drugs.

The scientists at the Cary Institute of Ecological Studies say their findings show human drug use is having an increasing impact on the amphibious environment.

PPCP’s are leaking into our waterways and changing the ecology.

PPCP'S stands for pharmaceuticals and personal care products. Associate scientist at the Cary Institute Emma Rosi-Marshall says people don’t fully metabolize most of the drugs they take and they’re coming out in our waste products which then seep into waterways.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

This was a milestone year in the ongoing cleanup of Onondaga Lake. The Honeywell Corporation finished up the dredging portion of the cleanup this fall, removing 2.2 million cubic yards of toxic sludge from the bottom of the lake a year ahead of schedule.

The dredging has probably  been the most visible part of the company’s $451 million lake clean up plan.

Syracuse University engineering professor Charlie Driscoll says the community is close to the end of a massive cleanup effort of a waterway that, for years, was a dumping ground for industry.

Researchers and medical professionals from around the state gathered in Albany to urge acting Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to impose a three- to five-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in New York state.

Yuri Gorby, a researcher at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, says the medical community is only just beginning to understand the health impact of hydrofracking, and the moratorium would give New York a chance to make a fully informed decision.

Greg Craybas

Local photographers are showing off pictures of wildlife and birds returning to Onondaga Lake, during an exhibit open to the public this weekend at Honeywell’s Onondaga Lake Visitors Center in Geddes. The images are meant to show the public that the lake is being restored.

Like the canary in the coal mine, birds are often a harbinger of the health of an ecosystem, says Audubon of New York Executive Director Erin Crotty.

Center for Environmental Initiatives

Community members from across western New York came together in Rochester Thursday to address the issue of pollution in the Genesee River, and create an action plan for the immediate future.

The summit, run by the Center for Environmental Initiatives, was spurred by a new study which suggests human activity along the Genesee River Basin is having a direct impact on the water quality in Lake Ontario.

Justin Sorenson, Watertown Daily Times

Earlier this week, a researcher from the state Health Department met with Watertown residents from the neighborhood near the New York Air Brake plant. The Health Department has agreed to study the area’s disease patterns because residents suspect that pollution from the plant has made people sick.

Robert S. Donovan / Flickr

Farmers in the Champlain Valley often use tile drains in their fields. They help the region’s clay soil drain faster and produce higher crop yields. But for years, Lake Champlain has had high levels of phosphorus pollution, which can result in toxic blue-green algae blooms, and farm runoff is one of the primary contributors.

Now scientists are trying to figure out whether there’s a link between tile drainage and phosphorus pollution.

Ashley Hirtzel/WBFO

The Environmental Protection Agency outlined its plans to clean up a heavily polluted creek at a public meeting in Lockport on Tuesday. But some residents in the western New York community are concerned that the plans won’t happen fast enough, with an official decision not scheduled until the end of September.

Ashley Hirtzel/WBFO

Eighteenmile Creek in Lockport, N.Y. has been a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated area of concern for decades. Because of recent flooding, the EPA is now weighing the option of permanently relocating people living closest to the creek ahead of a massive site cleanup.

Affected residents say a solution can’t come soon enough.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Even though dredging and capping operations to clean up contamination in Onondaga Lake is in its early stages, a scientist consulting on the project says mercury levels are dropping better than expected.

The Cuomo Administration says it will not be ruling on whether to allow hydrofracking in New York until an on-going health review is finished.  The delays have resulted in the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation having to open another public comment period, which begins December 12.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

There's a new view of Onondaga Lake.  Honeywell has  opened a new Onondaga Lake Visitors Center, right next to the company's massive project that's dredging and capping two million cubic yards of contaminated lake soil. Honeywell hopes it can change perceptions of a lake, that for decades has been so dirty, people didn't want to go near it.

Joanna Richards / WRVO

At a packed public meeting November 7 in Watertown, state environmental and health officials began a dialogue with members of the public concerned about pollution on the city's north side, with the New York Air Brake plant at the center of concern. Now, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) officials talk about what they'll do with the new information from the meeting, and what might come next.

borisvolodnikov / Flickr

Before deciding what the Onondaga Lake shoreline should look like in the future, FOCUS, is looking  at what the community has wanted in the past. The community group that is creating  a roadmap for the future of the polluted lake's shore, has issued a preliminary report documenting 84 years of studies of the lake.

The New York Air Brake industrial site in Watertown has been the subject of resurgent concerns among residents of the city's north side neighborhood. Some have come forward about illnesses they say are linked to pollution at the site. The state departments of Health and Environmental Conservation are holding a community meeting Wednesday, November 7 in Watertown to hear those concerns.

Joanna Richards / WRVO

A toxic waste site in Watertown is drawing renewed attention from residents and city leaders. New York Air Brake's chemical dump on the north side of town was cleaned up in the 1990s. State environmental officials say it's been monitored since then and they're convinced it's safe for neighbors and wildlife. But people who live nearby believe they have health problems traceable to the site. And they fear it still poses a health risk.

You may remember actor Julia Roberts’ portrayal of environmental activist Erin Brockovich in the 2001 movie of the same name. The real Brockovich was scheduled to visit Watertown last night. But she got sick and was unable to travel.

Instead, concerned residents who live near the toxic waste site caused by the New York Air Brake factory got to talk with Brockovich’s representative. Some believe pollution in the area has caused them health problems.

America's 'Most Polluted' Lake Finally Comes Clean

Aug 1, 2012

Onondaga Lake in Syracuse, N.Y., has often been called the most polluted lake in America. It was hammered by a one-two punch: raw and partially treated sewage from the city and its suburbs, and a century's worth of industrial dumping. But now the final stage in a $1 billion cleanup is about to begin.

Standing in his office amid stacks of reports, scientist Steve Effler glances at an old front-page headline of the Syracuse Herald-Journal: "Divers find goo in Onondaga Lake."

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