If there were ever a time in Syracuse for adhering to the precautionary principle I would argue for that time to be now with Onondaga Lake. After decades of time and millions of dollars spent on clean-up we still have a huge job ahead of us. And not just an environmental clean-up job, we also must work towards a clean-up of our culture and a return to a respect for the ecological heritage that the lake beckons us to reclaim. As SUNY-ESF President Quentin Wheeler recently proclaimed “Onondaga Lake is a metaphor for the broken covenant between humans and nature and an illustration of the complexity of modern environmental challenges...It demands that we examine the relationship that we aspire to have with the natural world and challenge ourselves to find answers that also include the human dimension.”
If we are to take serious our stewardship of the natural world, in recognition of its importance as not only a natural resource for our physical and spiritual survival, but also for our economic and infrastructural resilience, then, we must use this opportunity to make a statement.
That statement should be that we will no longer put Onondaga Lake in danger, and that we will place prime priority on its remediation and future public use, including the land immediately adjacent to it that has also suffered from the industrial mismanagement of the last century. How would that look?
In the case of the Roth Steel Scrap Yard, we have a great opportunity to be innovative and think in long-term and low-impact/low-cost solutions. I am imagining my alma-mater SUNY-ESF, one of the best environmental science schools of our time, to take leadership in the exploration of a phyto- and myco-remediation plan to use fungi and other plants to degrade and sequester contaminants, stimulate microbial, mycelium, and enzyme activity, and reduce toxins in-situ. You might have innovative ideas too and I would be excited to hear them.
Restore the ecology, fully remove the contaminants and pollutants, return the site to its former and best use as a natural environment (and maybe a very cool and first of its kind public park - if NYC can make a word-class and innovative park out of an abandoned rail line, then we can do the same with an abandoned scrap yard). Let’s not just cover up the problem with a human-made cap that will inevitably one-day fail and saddle our children's children with the problem we have today, nor rely on past uses when we could be forward-thinking in developing new biological and chemical technologies using plant biology and chemistry.
There's still time to submit your own comment, see http://www.syracuse.com/business-news/index.ssf/2015/08/public_comments_sought_for_cleanup_of_roth_steel_scrap_yard_in_syracuse_1.html for details.