Tompkins County Legislature Passes Resolution Urging Gov Hochul to Protect Cayuga Lake
Cayuga Lake Environmental Action Network issues statement in support
ITHACA, NY (11/09/2023) (readMedia)-- Last night, the Tompkins County Legislature approved a resolution 11-3 to protect Cayuga Lake from the dangers posed by Cargill's salt mining. The resolution urges Governor Hochul and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to require a full, independent environmental review of the mine's operations, and that Cargill or a future buyer post an adequate environmental bond with NYS.
"Cargill's salt mining has put the Finger Lakes at risk for too long, threatening 100,000 people's source of clean drinking water and our local $3 billion, 60,000-employee economic engine that relies on the health of the lakes. As the Tompkins County Legislature agrees, Governor Hochul needs to ensure that the mine cannot be sold without a full, independent environmental review of the mine before it's too late," said Stephanie Redmond, Environmental Researcher at CLEAN.
"The characterization of ecological risk to Cayuga Lake from the Cargill Salt mine is a very complex problem to solve. There are a lot of questions that need to be asked and answers sought. I've seen virtually no transparency nor rigorous analysis that is necessary for the assessment of large-scale impacts to Cayuga lake from our local salt mine." said Dr. Joe Kreitinger, a local expert in ecological and human health risk assessment, in public comment to the Legislators. He added, "... a serious technical review and associated risk model needs to be developed with full transparency and access to data that Cargill has not made available through an EIS or other publicly available environmental evaluation."
The County Legislature's vote follows last week's introduction of legislation in the NYS Legislature to protect Cayuga Lake. The new bill (S7736) seeks to bolster the required protections by requiring, with any future permit renewals or the sale or transfer of the mine, an environmental impact statement as well as an updated reclamation plan along with appropriate financial security to ensure the communities relying on Cayuga Lake and its watershed for drinking water, leisure, and economic development are protected from potential harm.
Nearly 2,000 people signed a petition urging Governor Hochul and the DEC to step in and protect Cayuga Lake. And on October 24, Senator Webb, Assembly Member Kelles, and Tompkins County Legislator Anne Koreman, along with local advocates and business owners, held a virtual press conference demanding Governor Hochul and the DEC protect Cayuga Lake from the threats posed by the potential sale of Cargill's mine. Over zoom, the residents, business owners and other leaders called on Governor Hochul to take actionable steps to protect Cayuga Lake and ensure a secret sale of this mine doesn't occur without appropriate public oversight that fully examines all environmental risks. An independent environmental review should examine the impact of mining and mine expansion on water quality and salinity, surrounding geological formations, aquatic life, air quality, and other ecological disruptions. The group also demanded that Cargill post a $10 Billion bond to ensure adequate funding even if the mine is sold to mitigate the many known and unknown environmental risks of salt mining under freshwater resources.
Cargill, one of the world's richest private conglomerates, known for environmental degradation, child labor, union busting, and worker safety issues, has been working with advisors including Deutsche Bank on the secret sale of its mine under and on the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake with no public oversight. For decades Cargill has operated its mines with insufficient regulatory oversight. While the Mine Safety and Health Administration has been able to inspect for worker safety, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation has not inspected regularly for issues related to protecting the Cayuga Lake ecosystem. As a result of 132 years of salt mining, Cayuga Lake is saltier than nearly all the other Finger Lakes. Without intervention from New York State, the lake could permanently become even more salty, destroying 100,000 residents' source of drinking water and the bedrock of the region's $3 billion, 60,000-employee food, wine and recreational tourism economy.
Cayuga Lake Environmental Action Now (CLEAN) is an independent advocacy group that is working to protect Cayuga Lake. We are addressing industry polluters in an effort to highlight the need for remediation of industrial contamination. Based in Ithaca, CLEAN is working with researchers, local environmental groups, and a legal team to address water quality issues on Cayuga Lake. CLEAN has fiscal sponsorship through the Chris Dennis Environment Foundation. We are working to hold industry polluters accountable and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation responsible for protecting a resource that belongs to all of us: Cayuga Lake.