Lake Source Cooling
... Maybe a Good Idea For the Baltic Sea, But Not a Good Idea for Cayuga Lake

It was interesting to read the article in the Ithaca Journal opinion column entitled "Full Steam Ahead on Lake Source Cooling" (11/17/98). It is very perplexing to me how a man of the "Limnological cloth" can advocate such a project. I have since read some background press articles on the project and find LSC, at best, a contradiction of basic ecological principles.

I do not challenge the fact that the project will be better for the global environment. It might reduce the emission of CFC's produced by Cornell University's antiquated cooling systems. However, this will be done at the local expense of increasing the symptoms of eutrophication (aging) in Cayuga Lake, especially at the already troubled south end of the lake. I accept the fact that LSC will use 80% less electricity, but the electricity generation by Milliken Station will nevertheless, remain at its maximum.

Doctor Oglesby's editorial hypothetically attributes this year's increased growth of rooted aquatic vegetation to the zebra mussels. These, he said, improved the clarity of the water so that weeds could take root in deeper water. The problem I find with this theory is that the limiting factor for our most prevalent pest weed, water milfoil, is pressure (from depth) and not sunlight.

I also suspect that, like most plants, milfoil does not need bright light in order to begin growth. It will reach for existing sunlight by excessive vertical growth if sufficient warmth and nutrients are present, just like any other plant. This theory is supported by the fact that zebra mussels have been present in the lake since 1993. The big variable this year was the weather, not the mussels. "El Nino" was with us since the fall of 1997 thereby keeping the average temperature of Cayuga Lake much higher than in the past years. The weather was so much warmer last winter that the usual ice caps did not form at either end of the lake. The lack of ice caps even more greatly accelerates the upward temperature changes in the lake because melting ice can absorb eighty times as much heat as liquid water. Thus, this past year, warmer average air temperatures warmed up the lake faster thereby producing more rooted vegetation.

Furthermore, this year the algal/plankton blooms were of much greater magnitude and longer in duration than in the previous five years even though the zebra mussels were present. Serious blooms like the "bloom of '98" have not happened since the advent of the zebra mussels. The proliferation of plankton blooms and the increased growth of aquatic vegetation are mostly the result of heat. For every 18F increase in temperature, there is a doubling of metabolic activity in the water. The predicted LSC gain heat gain coupled with the predicted gain in phosphorus will more than double the productivity of the water involved. Regardless of what engineers say to fishermen, highly productive water does not represent good quality water and can even cause an oxygen deficit in the water. Heat related decreased solubility of oxygen, as well as consumption of the gas in decomposition of organic matter, will greatly contribute to oxygen deficits in Cayuga Lake's south end. This makes for smelly, tea colored water and not so good trout and bass fishing.

Furthermore, I challenge the engineer's diagram signatured by Stearns & Wheler. Here the firm labels the temperature at 250 feet deep in Cayuga Lake to be 41F. I believe at this depth the temperature is 39.2F (4C) all year. This makes their predicted temperature gain of LSC water discharge off by 12%. For a reputable firm to make a "rounding error" like this on known, observable data can only give bogus validity to their predictions on the negligible ecological effects of LSC on Cayuga Lake. Unpredictable variables like the weather will further complicate the effects of LSC.

Speaking of the weather, have local weather ramifications of warm water discharge under a much colder air temperature during winter months been considered? Will this cause unpredicted steam, fog, LSC effect snow and icing over of local roads? Oh, oh!

I have also been furnished with an article from Cornell Magazine (12/97) in which I find several amusing statements. My comments are in parentheses.

There are many other complications as well as misconceptions to Lake Source Cooling than the ones cited above. Indeed, Lake Source Cooling will negatively affect the quality of Cayuga Lake waters and will definitely accelerate the rate of eutrophication (aging) of the lake. Where have all of the educated professionals of the greater Ithaca area been? If you want to really save the ozone layer, sacrifice yourselves by upgrading or even shutting off your own cooling systems instead of polluting Cayuga Lake.

Mel Russo
5280 Route 89
Town of Varick, NY 14541

Prepared by the Cayuga Lake Defense Fund (CLDF).
For more information, Call: 275-9054 or 272-7914 or email

CLDF 1998