AG not taking action on proposed sewage treatment plant

The New York State Attorney General’s office will not take any legal action against Onondaga County for working on a proposed sewage treatment plant near Midland Avenue, a state official said Friday.

Officials at the Attorney General’s regional office in Syracuse met with several local organizations including the Partnership for Onondaga Creek, Syracuse United Neighbors and the Syracuse University Student Environmental Action Coalition, Thursday, as part of an effort from to force Onondaga County to delay plans for a regional treatment plant on the city’s South Side.

The organizations questioned the legality of Onondaga County’s proposed plan. Some the legal issues revolve around the city of Syracuse, which owns roughly half the land needed to build the $54 million plant. The proposed plant aims to stop raw sewage from flowing into Onondaga Creek when excessive rainfall or snowmelt backs up the sewer system.

“It was an opportunity to speak about their concerns,” said Winthrop Thurlow, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Syracuse Regional Office. “We had an open exchange of ideas.”

Still, the state office backed off promising legal action against Onondaga County.

“They sympathized with us,” said Syracuse University sophomore Lee Clark, a member of the Student Environmental Action Coalition, “But they feel the county has gotten too far in its planning and there’s not many legal steps that they can take.”

Neighborhood residents and organizations have fought the purposed plant for years, saying it would be a detriment to the area, said Joanne Stevens, 53, who lives five blocks away from Midland Avenue. The county’s sewage treatment plans could further pollute Onondaga Creek, according to a release from Syracuse United Neighbors.

While organizations fighting the sewage plant faced a setback, they will attempt to find other means to delay action.

“We’re going to be attending a series of meetings in the next month,” said Phil Prehn of Syracuse United Neighbors. “We still have a lot to get done.”

Meanwhile, the Student Environmental Action Coalition will be conducting a class, Tuesday, Nov. 18, for students and Syracuse residents to learn more about the Midland issue, said coalition member Alicia Haley. Several ESF professors and a Midland resident are expected to speak.

“We’re trying to focus on trying to get the word around campus,” said Haley, a junior at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. “We’re trying to teach the campus more about it and hopefully we can have more support from the student body.”

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