Fifty-two Camillus residents sued Honeywell International today, demanding an immediate prohibition on any further dumping of waste dredged from Onondaga Lake near their communities.
Three residents of Golden Meadows, along with Manhattan attorney Ken McCallion, announced the suit in front of the Onondaga County Courthouse at noon today. The suit had been filed in state Supreme Court minutes earlier.
The lawsuit says the air monitoring techniques used by Honeywell are inadequate and that the company has failed to employ “reasonable care” in dumping the material in Camillus. It demands that the dumping stop until a state-of-the-art monitoring system is put in place that ensures the safety of residents.
“In a sense, the residents have been treated like guinea pigs or canaries in the mine in that they’ve developed nosebleeds, headaches and other serious symptoms consistent with chemical contamination and toxic poisoning,” McCallion said.
The lawsuit says residents have also suffered from nausea, sinus and nasal burning and irritation, tingling sensations, severely dry and itchy skin, persistent coughing and severe asthma attacks.
The suit says Honeywell should either halt transport of the contaminated sludge to Camillus or install a state-of-the-art air monitoring system, specifically the “Toxic Organic Compendium Method 19.”
Honeywell began dredging the lake July 30 and then stopped for three weeks because of complaints of odors from Camillus residents. It started up again, but residents still complained of odors. The dredging then shut down for the winter, as scheduled.
Dredging is scheduled restart as warmer weather arrives next month. The dredging — and the transport of the muck from the lake bottom to Camillus — is scheduled to continue for another three years.
Honeywell and the state Department of Environmental Conservation say no imminent health threats have emerged in Camillus.
They say the eight air sensors that ring the former Allied wastebed — where the sludge is wrapped in plastic tubes for eventual burial — have shown nowhere near the levels of compounds in the air that could affect health in the short term.
But the DEC has acknowledged that benzene levels are a concern. At the beginning of the project, it set an annual average limit of 1.9 micrograms per cubic meter of benzene in the air. The average for the first 2.5 months of the project was 2.2 micrograms per cubic meter.
The DEC said it would continue to seek ways to lower that level.
Lynda Wade, who has been a leader of the neighborhood group Camillus Clean Air Coalition, said residents want to see Onondaga Lake cleaned up. But she said there is “no safe way” to continue to transport the waste to Camillus.
“All this has done is take a water contamination problem and turn it into a severe air contamination problem,” she said. “Our health is at risk and our children’s health is at risk.”
After Wade become too emotional to continue, another resident, Charlene Hart, took over reading the group’s statement.
“Most of the time we are told that this is a nuisance and something we have to live with,” she said. ” We cannot live with this.”
Hart said, “I can tell your firsthand it’s terrible not to be able to go outside with your children, to have to close your windows at night and to feel the effects of this, and there are effects.”
The group urged people to get more information by going to its website.
Honeywell released a statement saying it had not seen the lawsuit, but that the company follows a Community Health and Safety Plan that was approved by the DEC, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Health.
The statement quoted DEC Regional Manager Ken Lynch as saying the air system in place in Camillus is “one of the most sophisticated and advanced air monitoring systems ever implemented at any environmental remediation site.”
The Honeywell statement added that the DEC and the company are working with “engineers, scientists and odor experts from across the country in response to calls about odors in the community. Honeywell made several upgrades last fall and will be implementing additional odor controls prior to the start of dredging this spring.”
Contact Paul Riede at [email protected] or 470-3260. Follow him on Twitter at @PaulRiede.
Originally posted 2013-03-18 19:32:37.