If you made a list of favorite beach spots in Central New York, the usual suspects might be Sylvan Beach or Verona Beach State Park on the eastern shore of Oneida Lake, the public beach at Delta Lake, the southern shores of Lake Ontario, and maybe the sandy expanse and adjacent playground at Green Lakes State Park.

One area that might NOT come to mind immediately is right in the middle of Onondaga County. The waters of Onondaga Lake just don't scream swimming, tanning and sand castles, but the much-maligned lake near downtown Syracuse might soon get in the game.

Onondaga County legislators are spending $440,000 to study and design a beach on the shores of the lake that time forgot. Onondaga Lake was once called the most polluted lake in America. For decades businesses used the lake to dump unhealthy chemicals--at one time an estimated 20 pounds of mercury on a daily basis.

Now, two-thirds of the lake is deemed to be clean enough for swimming. And, even though an underground barrier was built to keep groundwater from seeping into the lake's bed, the massive clean-up leaves an estimated 85% of the lake's bottom untouched.

Detractors scoff at the study and feel the money being spent could be allocated elsewhere. Onondaga County recently voted 12-5 to proceed with the study.

Would you swim in what was once America's dirtiest lake?


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