LAKE GEORGE - In the wake of repeated tests that show bacterial contamination of lakewater near the Shepard Park Beach, the Village government has launched an investigation into the problem, and is eyeing a moratorium blocking more hookups to the sewer system.
The Shepard Park Beach, popular with tourists and residents, is now closed indefinitely while several area agencies examine what may be causing the continued contamination of lakewater near the beach, Village Mayor Robert Blais said Monday.
He also said the village is now seeking federal help in upgrading the village sewer transmission system and pumping station. A pipe in the pumping station at Shepard Park burst July 5 and flooded the beach and lake with 8,000 to 10,000 gallons of raw sewage, prompting the village to close the beach, fix the breach and replace 300 tons of contaminated sand.
But as the beach was scheduled to be reopened this past week, tests of the lakewater showed unexpected spikes in contamination levels that are baffling public works and health officials.
At a special meeting late Wednesday, the board voted to hire the engineering firm C.T. Male at a cost of $8,000 to examine the sewer mains and pumping station apparatus to make recommendations for upgrades. The firm is expected to prepare a report prioritizing recommended improvements as part of an effort to secure federal aid. C.T. Male representatives were on site this past week for an initial inspection of the system.
The report will be submitted to U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand who has pledged to seek federal funds for modernizing the aging sewer system, Blais said. Gillibrand aide David Johnson was in the village Thursday talking about potential federal funds of upgrades.
One proposal for the sewer mains near the lake is to install "slip lines," which are either impermeable new pipe linings or encasements surrounding the pipe. Such slip lines could cost about $100 per foot, Village Public Works Superintendent David Harrington estimated Monday.
Another idea is to install backup emergency bypass sewage pumping systems that detect spillage and bypass a broken or blocked transmission line. In the July 5 incident, the village's primary bypass pumping system shut down, allowing the sewage to flow into the lake.
In the wake of the continued contamination, village officials considered imposing a moratorium on new sewer hookups.
They decided to meet with town officials to discuss a moratorium, as the town contracts with the village to process sewage from its own sewer district.
Blais said they hoped to hold the meeting soon, then possibly hold a public hearing on the proposal within the next several weeks.
Harrington reported that about five new subdivisions have been approved, but no such developments are "shovel ready" and need hookup soon.
Blais said the perplexing spikes in contamination levels long after the environmental cleanup prompted the village to seek help from agencies in identifying and abating the source of the continued pollution. These agencies include the Lake George Park Commission, the state departments of Health and Environmental Conservation and the Darrin Freshwater Institute.
"We're baffled by the test results," Blais said. "We have no idea at this point what the source of the contamination is."
Also, the village is awaiting formal legal action from the DEC in the spillage incident. He said he anticipates the agency will recommend remedial steps, most of which the village has already implemented.
Peter Bauer of the Fund for Lake George has called for the DEC to suspend fines and have the village's resources spent instead on solving the contamination problem.
The state's Million Dollar Beach and other public and private beaches at the south end of the lake remain open.