It's Not Over Yet!
by Tarki Heath and Thane Joyal

At the site of the future Midland Sewage Treatment Plant in Syracuse, the dust flies around dense metal fencing topped with barbed wire and sealed with padlocked gates. Residents must walk a mile out of their way around the construction, and cars go in circular detours. Huge creek rats scurry to find new homes as bulldozers shake the ground. At Oxford and Blaine Streets, the location of the plant, the green space is gone, homes boarded up, and a feeling of despair and anger hangs in the air.

It may seem that nothing has worked to protect this community from the County's determination to build a sewage plant. And yet, The Partnership for Onondaga Creek (POC) continues to cry: "It's Not Over Yet!" Here's why.
Title VI

In March, 2005, the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Civil Rights (EPA/OCR) dismissed the POC's Title VI complaint. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act was intended to prevent the use of federal funding on projects which are discriminatory based on race, color, or national origin (which the Midland project is). In recent years, the program has been dismantled by the Bush Administration. As attention on this misused process becomes more visible, so does Midland.

On July 11, nine POC members traveled to New York City to meet with EPA officials. We were accompanied by two representatives of the Onondaga Nation, and a growing coalition of supporters from West Harlem Environmental Action, Environmental Advocates of New York, Citizens Environmental Coalition, the Sierra Club, and Senator Hillary Clinton's office. We presented the EPA with missing information from its "investigation," as they had never visited the community or looked beyond the paper record. As a result of this meeting, we now have a continuing dialog with EPA/OCR, and a broadening statewide and national coalition.

An overflow sign at Onondaga Creek.

SPDES Public Hearing
On another front, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) has issued a draft discharge permit which will authorize water discharges to Onondaga Creek from Midland. Unfortunately, the proposed permit does not protect water quality in Onondaga Creek or comply with the Clean Water Act. The POC, the Onondaga Nation, and others have sent in critical assessments of the permit and have requested a public hearing. Nearly 100 people requested a hearing, including NYS Senators DeFrancisco, Marcellino, and Valesky, NYS Assembly Representatives DiNapoli, Christensen, and Magnarelli, and Syracuse Mayor Driscoll. Recently, Onondaga County has lobbied the NYSDEC, arguing that no hearing should be held. Once again, the County is attempting to shut down the public process on this issue.

Your voice is needed! Please call the NYSDEC (426-7403) and insist on the need for a public hearing on this permit (in your message, please refer to SPDES Permit # NY-0027081). You may also call any of the representatives above to support their position.

Armory Square:
Here we go again!

Onondaga County is planning to build another ill-conceived swirler plant on the old Trolley Site in Armory Square, downtown Syracuse. During large rainstorms, sewage overflows will still occur, and the facility would discharge partially treated sewage into Onondaga Creek.

On June 29, the POC, Onondaga Nation, Onondaga County, and the City of Syracuse presented views and technical information to the Armory Square Merchants. The POC presented an alternative to the County's plan, using County-approved technologies. The Partnership's plan calls for increased, strategic use of sewer separation and storage. This plan distributes the sewage burden equally by involving every sub-basin: Midland, Clinton, the Northside and Harbor Brook. When complete, there would be NO overflow into Onondaga Creek. To learn more about this plan, contact the POC for a copy of A Technical Sheet on Higher Standards.

To express your concerns about the County's plan call Mayor Driscoll (448-8005) and County Executive Nick Pirro (435-3516). Use your contacts to inform business owners in the Armory Square area about the POC's fair, alternative plan.

Join the Partnership (POC)!

The POC continues to work on a variety of outreach efforts, including developing coalitions with the City-Wide Coalition of Urban Pastors and with Armory Square merchants. We are not a large group, and can always use extra hands and voices. If you would like to have brochures to pass along to others, or want to contribute your time and talents to this struggle in any way, contact the Partnership at 478-4571 (Aggie Lane), 422-1673 (Louise Poindexter), or 696-5262 (Tarki Heath). Meetings are every Tuesday at 6 pm at the Brady Faith Center.

Brochures available on request:
Healing Onondaga Creek
A Technical Sheet on Higher Standards
Check out our website at and download our PowerPoint presentations on Underground Storage, Environmental Justice, and Chlorine: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

It's not over yet!

Tarki and Thane are very active with the Partnership for Onondaga Creek.