Onondaga Lake/Seneca River EMPACT Site

EPA Grant Number: R827966
Title: Onondaga Lake/Seneca River EMPACT Site
Investigators: Effler, Steven W. , Brooks, C. M. , Doerr O'Donnell, Susan M. , Driscoll, Charles T. , Gelda, Rakesh K. , Hassett, J. , Michalenko, E. M. , O'Donnell, D. M. , Saunders, D. A.
Institution: Syracuse City School District , SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period:    
Project Amount: $499,999
RFA: Environmental Monitoring for Public Access and Community Tracking (EMPACT) (1999) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Environmental Statistics , Water , Ecosystems , Air , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration


Onondaga Lake is arguably the most polluted lake in the United States. Fishing and swimming are prohibited, and several water quality standards are routinely violated. Adjoining portions of the Seneca River are tightly linked to the lake with respect to water quality, ecological concerns and management issues. Reliable polling results indicate that while an overwhelming majority of local residents (above 90%) know that these systems are severely polluted, they have little specific knowledge of why this is (below 50%), or how to rectify the situation. In 1998, local state and federal authorities agreed on a 15 year staged program (~ $400+ million) to address the impacts of sewage pollution on the lake and river. This program requires continuous monitoring A consortium of organizations from the Syracuse area (above) proposes to convey critical near-real-time data, from remote platforms in the lake and river, to the public, via a variety of public education forums, and to the research community. The overarching goals of this EMPACT project are to: (1) apply and advance innovative remote monitoring technology to meet the acute present and future monitoring needs for Onondaga Lake and the Seneca River, and (2) redress the community's lack of understanding concerning the degraded conditions of these ecosystems.


Components of innovative time-relevant monitoring, effective handling of collected data, and time-relevant communication of data to stakeholders will be effectively integrated to meet the project objectives. Specific components include: (1) establishment of computer-driven remote measurement platforms in the lake and river (one each) that will collect critical data for as many as 15 parameters, (2) utilization of the multiple time and space scale capabilities of these platforms to augment the long-term monitoring programs, and support related modeling and research programs, (3) implementation of systems to manage, process, and deliver collected data, with an emphasis on post-processing techniques that will engage the public, (4) establishment of a multi-level (K-12, college, lay citizen) web site for the EMPACT project that displays and interprets the collected data, (5) education of stakeholders through kiosks, seminars, and workshops, and (6) establishment of curricula that integrate the project and its web site to meet science instruction requirements (K-12).

Expected Results:

The lasting benefits, of this EMPACT project will include: (1) addition of critical capabilities to the long-term monitoring program, (2) creation of vehicles to communicate important characteristics and findings to all stakeholders, and (3) a community that is more engaged in critical environmental decision making.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 8 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 2 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

limnology, ecological effects, Northeast, EPA Region 2., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Ecosystem Protection, Monitoring/Modeling, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Environmental Monitoring, Ecology and Ecosystems, Ecological Risk Assessment, EPA Region, Social Science, EMPACT, limnology, ecological condition, ecological effects, ecological exposure, community-based approach, Onondaga Lake, Seneca River, community water quality information system, web site development, community outreach, water quality, stakeholders

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2000 Progress Report
  • Final Report