Superfund Information Systems: Site Profile

Superfund Site:


Health & Environment

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What Are the Risks at the Site?

Historically, industrial pollutants and municipal sewage waste were routinely discharged into the lake. As a result, the surface water is contaminated with mercury and the sediments are contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); pesticides; creosotes; heavy metals including lead, cobalt, and mercury; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs); and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as chlorobenzene.

Groundwater at many of the upland subsites is also contaminated. Several species of fish native to the lake have high concentrations of mercury. Public fishing in Onondaga Lake was banned in 1970, but the lake was opened for catch-and-release fishing in 1986. From 1986 to 1999, the fish consumption advisory for Onondaga Lake was “Don’t eat any fish” from the lake. In 1999, the advisory was updated to “Don’t eat any walleye and eat up to one meal a month of all other species.” In 2007, the advisory was updated to “Don’t eat largemouth and smallmouth bass over 15 inches, and walleye. Eat up to one meal a month of smallmouth bass and largemouth bass less than 15 inches, carp, channel catfish, white perch and all other species.” In 2010, the advisory was updated to “Don’t eat largemouth bass and smallmouth bass greater than 15 inches, walleye carp, channel catfish and white perch. Eat up to four meals a month of brown bullhead and pumpkinseed. Eat up to one meal a month of all other fish.” This advisory is currently in effect. Women under 50 and children under the age of 15 are advised not to eat any fish from Onondaga Lake. The fish consumption advisory is based on the presence of mercury, dioxin and PCBs in fish tissue. Contact with or ingestion of contaminated groundwater, surface water or sediments could pose a health threat, although the EPA and New York State have determined that the site poses no immediate threat to human health or the environment while studies and remedial work are being performed.

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Contaminant Information

View a full list of contaminants of concern for this site.

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Performance Measures

EPA uses performance measures to track environmental results at Superfund sites. If you have any questions or concerns about the measures at this site, please contact the site team members listed under Site Contacts.

Read more about Superfund Remedial Performance Measures.

Status at this
Superfund Site
What does this mean?
Human Exposure Under Control No Yes means assessments indicate that across the entire site:
  1. There are currently no unacceptable human exposure pathways; and
  2. EPA has determined the site is under control for human exposure.

No means an unsafe level of contamination has been detected at the site and a reasonable expectation exists that people could be exposed.

Insufficient data means that, due to uncertainty regarding exposures, one cannot draw conclusions as to whether human exposures are controlled, typically because:
  1. Response to the contamination has not begun; or
  2. The response has begun, but it has not yet generated information sufficiently reliable to evaluate whether there are currently any unacceptable human exposure pathways at the site.
Groundwater Migration Under Control Insufficient Data

Yes means EPA reviewed all information on known and reasonably expected groundwater contamination. EPA concluded the migration of contaminated groundwater is stabilized and there is no unacceptable discharge to surface water. EPA will conduct monitoring to confirm that affected groundwater remains in the original area of contamination.

No means EPA has reviewed all information on known and reasonably expected groundwater contamination, and the migration of contaminated groundwater is not stabilized.

Insufficient data means that due to uncertainty regarding contaminated groundwater migration, EPA cannot draw conclusions as to whether the migration of contaminated groundwater is stabilized.

Construction Complete No

Yes means the physical construction of the cleanup is complete for the entire site.

No means either physical construction is not complete or actions are still needed to address contamination.

Sitewide Ready for Anticipated Use No Yes means:
  1. All cleanup goals affecting current and reasonably anticipated future land uses of the entire site have been achieved, so there are no unacceptable risks;
  2. All required land-use restrictions or other controls have been put in place; and
  3. The site has achieved Construction Complete status.

No means that one or more of these three criteria have not been met. However, a site listed as no may still have redevelopment occurring on portions of the site and may be eligible for additional redevelopment.

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