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Auburn & Owasco Disappointed in NY, Demand Action on Owasco Lake


Profound disappointment – that’s how two local leaders feel about the state’s response to issues with the quality of Owasco Lake and its watershed.

Auburn Mayor Mike Quill and Owasco Town Supervisor Ed Wagner have written a letter to Governor Kathy Hochul demanding her administration act decisively to prevent further contamination of the source of drinking water for 45,000 people.

Auburn passed a resolution in 2016 asking the state to create a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL)- a maximum amount of pollutants allowed to enter a water body so it will meet water quality standards – for the lake to reduce Harmful Algal Blooms. The state has yet to grant a TMDL to the lake, despite constant pleas by local leaders and elected officials, including State Senator Rachel May.

Both municipalities unanimously passed resolutions last month requesting New York implement and fund a TMDL.

In 2017, local stakeholders began drafting updates to the Owasco Lake Watershed Rules and Regulations which haven’t been updated since their enactment by the Department of Health (DOH) in 1984. Auburn and Owasco voted in favor of the draft resolution in 2020. After three years, the DOH has yet to start the process to adopt the proposed updated rules and regulations.

After detailing the years-long back and forth between the New York and local governments, Auburn and Owasco say now is a critical moment where state action is needed or else Cayuga County could become the next Flint, Michigan.

In September, the Cayuga County Board of Health sent a letter to Hochul, sharing the same concerns for the future health of Owasco Lake and its watershed. In its letter, the board called the state’s proposed Rules and Regulations for the lake “little more than window dressing.”

Congresswoman Claudia Tenney also announced her office is looking into the municipalities’ attempts to get a TMDL for the lake.

A copy of Quill and Wagner’s letter can be found below:

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