Stand Up for Cayuga Lake!
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In the heart of upstate NY lies 11 lakes called the Finger Lakes. The lakes are long, narrow, and oriented in the north–south direction. Carved out by glaciers around two million years ago, these lakes are now the home of over 1.2 million people and boasts a thriving economy in the wine and craft beer industries. Cayuga Lake, the second largest of the Finger Lakes, is about 40 miles long and reaches a depth of approximately 435 ft at its deepest point. As the main source of public drinking water for at least 40,000 people, it is important to safeguard the health of the lake.
Cayuga Lake might look pristine, but it is threatened by industry and it is already showing signs of distress.
Cayuga Lake is being jeopardized by many factors such as invasive species, inadequate treatment of wastewater, and emerging contaminants. Additionally, more intense weather events caused by climate change increases farm runoff and erosion of silt, leading to nutrient loading. Data indicates the increase in nutrients coupled with higher temperatures has been leading to harmful algal blooms.
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. We are affiliated with the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network. CLEAN has fiscal sponsorship through the Chris Dennis Environment Fund. 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 - from the waves up above to the salt down below.
Urgent Action Needed to Protect Cayuga Lake
We at CLEAN need your immediate attention and support in safeguarding our precious Cayuga Lake and its surrounding communities. Please consider signing a petition to Governor Hochul that asks her to close Cayuga Salt Mine and to require Cargill to post a $10B environmental bond that would be forfeited in the event that a mine collapse or other mine-related event leads to the long-term salinization of Cayuga Lake.
We were shocked to read a July 20th article in The Deal that Cargill has hired Deutsche Bank to assist them in selling Cayuga Salt Mine, if not their entire salt division. According to Cargill’s own consultants, future damage from ground subsidence above and near a salt mine can take up to 200 years to play out. In other words, after 53 years of profitable operations at Cayuga Salt Mine and within 8 years of exhausting their permitted reserves at the north end of the mine, Cargill CEO Brian Sikes is trying to divest the company from all future liability by selling the mine to another buyer.
As residents and businesses of this beautiful area, we deserve access to safe and clean water, and it is our responsibility to protect this vital natural resource. Cayuga Lake not only provides drinking water for at least 40,000 people but also serves as an economic driver for numerous recreational activities for locals and tourists alike.The Finger Lakes region has a thriving agritourism economy worth $3 billion and employing 60,000 individuals.
We understand that Cargill is having trouble attracting enough workers to work in their mine. We agree with Cargill that the current 200 jobs at Cayuga Salt Mine have a bleak future. Foreign sources of road salt get more competitive, demand for road salt is projected to plateau over the next decade, as communities in the Adirondacks have taken the lead to demand that current usage levels of road salt be reduced. Any further salt mine fatalities will further tarnish the Cargill family name. The Cargill Family needs to be persuaded to close the mine and endow a Finger Lakes Salt Mining Museum at Portland Point. It is time for this 5000 feet of blighted Cayuga Lake shore line to be cleaned up and repurposed. If a mine collapse salinized Cayuga Lake, our entire agritourism economy is put at risk. More than 100 years of salt mining at Cayuga and Seneca Lakes have already resulted in higher salinity levels in both lakes, posing threats to human health and the aquatic ecosystem.
The only environmental reviews of the mine thus far have been conducted by firms affiliated with and paid for by Cargill. It is crucial that an independent review is conducted to shed light on the ongoing risks of mine collapse, lake salinization, and other damage to the surrounding land. New York State must conduct this comprehensive environmental review not Cargill. We cannot allow a mine to permanently increase the salinity of the lake, as has happened in a mine collapse at Lake Peigneur in Louisiana. More recently Cargill closed their Avery Island Salt Mine in Louisiana in 2022 after two workers tragically died in a mine ceiling collapse. Their Whiskey Island Salt Mine in Cleveland has serious water intrusion problems. With a little more pressure from the public, we think the Cargill Family can be persuaded to close all three mines.
We believe that Governor Hochul and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation must take immediate action to protect Cayuga Lake and the Finger Lakes region. We urge them to require a full, independent environmental review of the mine and to demand that Cargill or any future buyer post a $10B environmental bond with New York State. While no sum of money would be sufficient to compensate our communities for the long-term salinization of Cayuga Lake caused by the sort of mine collapse that salinized Lake Peigneur, this $10B environmental bond requirement begins to communicate the level of concern we have about the risks of continued salt mining under and near Cayuga Lake.
Governor Hochul has the opportunity to step in now and protect the Finger Lakes by requiring Cargill to post a $10B environmental bond and to close the mine.
We urge all residents and businesses of the Finger Lakes, as well as those throughout New York and the country who have visited this treasured region and care about protecting our waterways, to sign the petition and share it with your friends, family, and colleagues.