Partnership for Onondaga Creek Awarded

The South Side-based Partnership for Onondaga Creek received an environmental award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its work improving water quality in Onondaga Creek and Onondaga Lake.

The partnership, the Atlantic States Legal Foundation, the Onondaga Nation and Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney was honored collectively with an Environmental Quality Award Saturday, April 24, in New York City. The award is in recognition of their collaboration in replacing a swirler-style sewage treatment place with green infrastructure. The four groups argue that rain gardens, porous pavement and other green infrastructure installations will reduce the cost and environmental impact of treating sewage in the city, and also keep storm water out of the overburdened sewer system.

“It’s really gratifying,” said Aggie Lane, one of the partnership’s leaders. “We hung in there over the long haul. The partnership worked well in coalition with other groups and when we got someone in government who wanted to work with us, it got a lot easier.”

Working together, the four honorees convinced a federal judge to amend a federal clean-up order, allowing them to implement green infrastructure instead of treatment plants like the one on Midland Avenue.

The award nomination form, submitted by the partnership on behalf of the four parties, said, “This unlikely coalition of environmental activists and county government is a remarkable story. It is a lesson in participatory democracy: a rare instance of government asking and receiving help from its informed citizens.”

Lane believes it may be the first time that a federal consent order has been altered to allow for green infrastructure. “I think there are a lot of people watching, so we have to be sure to make this work,” she said.