LAKE GEORGE - Employees of the town of Lake George capped three pipes last week that have apparently, for decades, illegally drained groundwater underneath Battlefield Park into town sewer mains that transported it into the village water treatment plant.
On July 19 and 20, a town work crew dug up the pipes where they were connected to the main sewer line that runs down beside West Brook Road's northbound lane.
The first lateral pipe, capped mid-morning July 19, was yielding about as much water as a garden hose, Lake George town Supervisor Frank McCoy said. The second lateral, producing about two or three time as much water, was capped about three feet into the Battlefield Park by town employees.
Although no one is claiming ownership of these pipes and other drains connected to the town water main off West Brook Road, McCoy said the pipes were likely installed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation when they created Battlefield Park from former swamp land.
Old-timers in town have recalled the state filled the swamp with many tons of fill dirt, and the pipes were probably installed to drain off underground sources of water that fed the swamp. Late last week, DEC officials denied knowledge or ownership of the pipes.
Town and village officials have been concerned in recent years the village sewer system has been overburdened and in the past year, stormwater flow was identified as a primary culprit.
Their concern led them to enact a six-month moratorium on additional household or commercial sewer hookups until the ongoing problem of limited capacity at the village sewer plant was alleviated.
For many years it has been illegal to pump stormwater into the municipal sewer system, which is reserved by law for septic sewage.
This spring, the town sent its robotic video camera crawling through the sewer mains, and these pipes under Battlefield Park were discovered delivering a considerable flow of stormwater into the main transmission line, part of the town's Caldwell Sewer District which pays the village government to treat water according to the gallons delivered. The cost is passed on to town taxpayers.
Long-time Lake George resident George McGowan, a former town board member, has also said the state must have put in the drainage pipes so Battlefield Park could be turned into a park, not a swamp as it was before DEC acquired it in the 1960's.
At the Lake George Town Board meeting July 12, McGowan called for the town to back-bill the state for 32 years of water treatment - or to charge the state fines for such illegal disposal of stormwater, which is $250 per day.
"The town of Lake George should sue the state for their 32 years of illegal hookups," he said, noting the state should be held accountable like citizens are. "There should be one justice, and DEC should not be excluded."
But McCoy said such a legal fight might be expensive and futile.
"We wouldn't get anywhere with a lawsuit," he said.
The capping work early this week was conducted primarily by town employees Paul Livingston, Dan Marino, and Jody Ovitt, McCoy said.
"We should immediately see a drop in readings of water flow through the mains," he said, noting after the first two pipes were capped, very little water remained flowing through the main line.
He said disconnecting the Battlefield Park lateral lines from the town's sewer line might save local taxpayers a considerable sum of money.
"Hopefully, this will enable us to avoid expanding the sewer treatment plant, and we should be able to lift the sewer hook-up moratorium in August," said McCoy.