Chapter One: Summary of Critical Issues

The information presented in this Citizen's Guide documents the fundamental conclusion that Cornell's Lake Source Cooling Project poses serious environmental and public health risks that would be avoided if the project is not constructed:

  1. Cornell's proposed private use of Cayuga Lake for its Lake Source Cooling Project would exacerbate turbidity, algae and aquatic weeds problems associated with wastewater discharges and non-point source pollution hazards, such as stormwater and agricultural runoff as well as streambank and roadbank erosion. According to the Priority Waterbodies List compiled by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in 1996, the resolution potential analysis for these problems "generally indicates that the resources necessary to address the problem are beyond what are currently (emphasis in the original) available;"

  2. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation determined in 1996 that Cayuga Lake's water quality use impairments required additional study and the development of a management plant. Since then, neither the water quality study nor the management plan have been completed, submitted for public review or implemented;

  3. Pursuant to section 303(d) of the U.S. Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C.1313(d), New York listed Cayuga Lake as a threatened Class AA(T) water quality limited segment for nutrient and silt pollution. This listing is required for waters where effluent limitations required by federal law are insufficiently stringent to implement applicable water quality standards. Ambient levels of total phosphorus monitored near the proposed Lake Source Cooling intake as well as in the vicinity of the discharge reportedly exceed New York State guidance values;12

  4. Pursuant to section 122.4 of the U. S. Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C.1313(d), no permit may be granted: "To a new source or a new discharger, if the discharge from its construction or operation will cause or contribute to the violation of water quality standards." Since Cayuga Lake has been determined to be threatened by nutrient pollutants, the Lake Source Cooling Project's proposed "new" discharge of phosphorus should clearly be prohibited. Since construction of the project could exacerbate silt pollution hazards, the permit also should have been denied;

  5. Pursuant to Section 303(d)(1)(C), each state is required to establish for waters included in the 303(d) listing "the total maximum daily load" (TMDL) for those pollutants which are necessary to implement the applicable water quality standard. Since that TMDL has yet to be adopted, the Lake Source Cooling Project's proposed discharge should clearly be prohibited;

  6. The proposed site of the heat exchange facility at 983 East Shore Drive (currently East Shore Sailing) was monitored by Cornell and found to be contaminated with lead, cadmium and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, including benzo(a)anthracene, benzo(a)pyrene, benzo(a)fluoranthene, benzo(g,h,i)perylene, fluoranthene, phenanthrene and pyrene. These contaminants may be associated with the site's former use as a salt mine with a coal-fired steam facility or could be the result of other activities;

  7. Since Cornell identified toxic contaminants at the site, the property has not been managed or improved to curtail the release of pollutants into Cayuga Lake or the environment-at-large. The uncontrolled release of the identified contaminants could pose acute and chronic toxicity hazards to swimmers, boaters and windsurfers at East Shore Boardsailing due to contaminated groundwater discharges, airborne dust emissions and other exposures to the contaminants. These uncontrolled releases also could threaten people living or working in the vicinity of the site. Construction of the proposed heat exchange facility could disturb the site and release contaminants to the environment;

  8. Uncontrolled toxic chemical releases from the proposed heat exchange facility site would exacerbate public health and the environmental hazards posed by numerous toxic sites with known or potential toxic pollutant discharges to Cayuga Lake. These contaminated sites include former utility sites, petroleum spills associated with leaking underground tanks and former landfills. All of these sites should be subject to immediate full-scale investigations and, if appropriate, remediations; and

  9. Given the environmental shortcomings of the proposed Lake Source Cooling Project, the Cayuga Lake Defense Fund strongly urges Cornell to explore and implement water chilling alternatives that could solve its CFC problem without imperiling Cayuga Lake. These alternatives include non-CFC refrigerants and co-generation cooling.

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

CLDF 1998