Land use within the Onondaga Lake Watershed in Onondaga County, NY varies considerably, from the predominantly forested and agricultural upper reaches of Nine Mile and Onondaga Creeks to the heavily urbanized lower reaches of all of the tributaries in and around the vicinity of Syracuse.  The Onondaga Lake Watershed, with emphasis on Onondaga Lake, has had an extensive history of industrial, municipal, and domestic pollution that began in the late 19th century and continued for over a century.  In 1994, Onondaga Lake was placed on the USEPA National Priorities List as a Superfund site for significant chemical pollution (USEPA, 2012).  A total of 11 subsites that include upland sources and seven major and minor tributaries have been identified as part of the Onondaga Lake Superfund site (USEPA, 2011).  Significant improvements in wastewater treatment and remedial efforts associated with the cleanup have greatly improved the physical, chemical, and biological conditions in the lake (OCDWEP, 2012).  

 

Table 1.  Waters in the Onondaga Lake Watershed that are currently listed as impaired under the 2012 NYS 303(d) List of Impaired Waters.  

WaterbodySection/SegmentCause/PollutantSourceYear Listed 
Onondaga LakeNorthern endDioxin, mercury, PCBs, other toxinsContaminated sediment1998
Southern endDioxin, mercury, PCBs, other toxinsContaminated sediment1998
Southern endPathogenCSOs, municipal, urban runoff2008
OutletDissolved oxygen/oxygen demandMunicipal, urban runoff2008
Onondaga CreekUpper and tribsTurbidityStreambank erosion2008
Middle and tribsTurbidityStreambank erosion2008
Middle and tribsPathogens, nutrients (phosphorus), ammoniaCSOs, municipal, urban runoff2008
Lower and tribsTurbidityStreambank erosion2010
Lower

1. pathogens 

2. nutrients (phosphorus)

3. ammonia

CSOs, municipal, urban runoff

1. 2008

2. 1998

3. 1998

Bloody BrookEntire, and tribsAquatic toxicityUnknown2010
Entire, and tribsPathogensMunicipal, urban runoff2008
Ley CreekEntire, and tribs

1. pathogens 

2. nutrients (phosphorus)

3. ammonia

4. cyanide

CSOs, municipal, urban runoff

1. 2008

2. 1998

3. 1998

4. 2008

Harbor BrookLower and tribs

1. pathogens

2. nutrients (phosphorus)

3. Ammonia

CSOs, municipal, urban runoff

1. 2008

2. 1998

3. 1998

Nine Mile CreekLower and tribs

1. pathogens

2. nutrients (phosphorus)

Municipal, urban runoff

1. 2008

2. 1998

1Many of the issues of concern are being addressed by the Onondaga Lake remedial efforts.