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Cornell University

Lake Source Cooling NYSDEC SPDES Permit

In December 2016, Cornell University completed the Cayuga Lake Modeling Project (CLMP) and provided New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) with sophisticated mathematical models to address key questions regarding Cayuga Lake’s water quality. The university and NYSDEC designed the CLMP to provide knowledge and tools for a rational, science-based approach to managing Cayuga Lake and protecting the quality of its waters for generations to come. The investment of four years and three million dollars has resulted in a deeper understanding of three issues central to managing Cayuga Lake: phosphorus sources, phosphorus bioavailability (i.e., potency for supporting phytoplankton growth), and the impact of water motion on distribution of phosphorus and phytoplankton.

NYSDEC and Cornell University embraced the emerging ecosystem-based management approach during the multi-year collaboration on Cayuga Lake. The core principles of ecosystem-based management include developing site-specific information, building on a strong scientific foundation, engaging with the community, and taking a holistic approach to evaluating impacts of management decisions on lands, water, and air.

The NYSDEC applied the water quality models of Cayuga Lake and watershed to determine how much phosphorus from all sources can be added to Cayuga Lake, while still protecting the lake’s water quality and aquatic habitat. This regulatory determination of acceptable loading is referred to as a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) allocation.

Cornell’s Lake Source Cooling (LSC) facility operates under a regulatory permit, referred to as a State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permit, issued by the NYSDEC. The state generally reviews all SPDES permits every five years and occasionally modifies their requirements. NYSDEC issued a SPDES permit for the LSC facility effective June 1, 2020 that modifies several requirements of the prior permit.  The new permit and the related documents are listed below.

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