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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

LINDSAY SELBY: Oggie of Onondaga Lake

Located northwest of Syracuse, New York, and south of Lake Ontario is Onondaga Lake. The lake is five miles (8 km) long and a mile (1.5 km) wide, and is reported to have a maximum depth of 63 feet (19 metres). It is said to be the home of a creature called Oggie. The traditions of the Onondagas and Iroquois, indigenous peoples of the region, indicate that a creature has lived in Onondaga Lake for centuries. However, the lake has a long history of being polluted from being used for sewage disposal and then was used for the disposal of the run-off from Oswego’s Nine Mile Island nuclear power facility, which discharged its waste directly into a river that feeds straight into Onondaga Lake. Today Onondaga Lake is considered by the Environmental Protection Agency to be one of the most polluted lakes in the United States. It is this polluted water that supposedly gave birth to the monstrous creature known as Oggie. One of the more popular urban myths involving the origin of Oggie was from 1972 when a boy scout returned from a camping trip with a salamander. When the boy eventually lost interest in the creature the parents released in into the sewer from where it ended up in the lake and was immediately immersed in pollutants. This then mutated the salamander to a monster. In 1977 a cub scout troop reported a dragon-like creature swimming in the lake. Some sightings have described it as an alligator. Oggie has become a local celebrity and appears in the area’s annual Halloween festivities as a large fibre-glass statue on parade.

How likely is it? Well, this is a report on the quality of the lake water:

Onondaga Lake water quality continues to improve in response to reductions in nutrient loading from the Metro wastewater treatment plant. However, the 2006 Lake conditions demonstrate the effect of a wet year on nutrient loading. Nonpoint source phosphorus input to the Lake increased in 2006 as a consequence of the above-normal precipitation and runoff. In response, Lake phosphorus and algal abundance showed a slight increase over 2005 conditions. Dissolved oxygen content of the Lake has increased to the point where water quality standards are now routinely met during fall mixing. Algal blooms are diminishing and cyanobacteria (blue-greens) represent a minor component of the algal community. Improvements in the Lake have allowed the beds of aquatic plants to greatly expand; this has increased the amount of nesting and nursery habitat for the warm water fish community.
Source: http://www.onlakepartners.org/lake_quality.htm

So it sounds like things are improving for the lake but if, as is reported, mercury had been tipped into the lake, it is unlikely that anything much could survive in there. Most mercury spills kill off the fish and poison the plant life, and that would mean no food source. I think we can chalk this up to urban myth and the stuff of horror films but if anyone knows anything different please post a comment.


Dale Drinnon said...

Would have been nice to say the lake has another example of the Giant hellbender series and there are other reports of such in the same geographical region. But with water quality so bad, it is unlikely to be a permaent inhabitant. It does not actually have to be one though- it could live in other areas and recolonize at intervals. There ARE still fish (including bass and walleye) that still live in the lake-but they are not safe to eat any more.

Tabitca said...

Thanks for that Dale. I was trying to stick to the urban myth angle. Once I read about the pollution in the water I knew it was unlikely that anything could survive there. You always have something pertinent to say :-)