Standing at controls to a primary processing station recently at the Lake George sewer treatment plant, village wastewater supervisor Tim Shudt explains upgrades that are proposed to boost the purity of the plant’s outflows.
The village sewer treatment plant’s ongoing discharge of effluent containing levels of nitrates that exceed state limits has finally prompted formal legal enforcement action by the state.
Lake George Village recently received a consent order issued by the state Department of Environmental Conservation over the non-compliant effluent, and the village board voted Monday July 14 to agree to the order and its negotiated remedies.
The state’s order noted that monitoring wells surrounding the plant, located on Birch Avenue, detected nitrate levels exceeding maximum permitted levels for 29 of 30 months in the series of biweekly tests over the past few years.
The consent order requires the village to correct the excess nitrate discharge and fines the municipality $3,900. It also requires the village to submit an engineering report that defines the facility’s shortfalls and evaluates potential solutions for bringing the facility into compliance.
The village leaders have been aware of the effluent violations occurring for about five years, and they have already been working towards boosting the plant’s treatment efficiency to clean up its discharge. These ongoing improvements include not only the planned installation of new sewer treatment devices, but also a new septic waste receiving system, rehabilitation of the sand beds that filter the effluent, and replacement of valves, piping and pumping stations. The village has also upgraded the sewer lines in the village in an effort to prevent infiltration and leakage.
Mayor Robert Blais told the public attending the monthly village board meeting Monday that he and the village trustees were expecting the consent order, and the village had been working with DEC for months to rectify the effluent violations.
“We’ve already begun to correct the problems and meet the DEC’s requirements,” Blais said, noting that the fine of $37,500 had been reduced, through negotiations with DEC, to a sum of $3,900.
A citizens advisory board has been appointed to oversee the project’s progress. Serving on the panel are Dave Decker, Executive Director of the Lake George Watershed Coalition; Chris Navitsky of the Lake George Waterkeeper; and Jim Sutherland, a retired DEC environmental scientist. Blais said the committee has specified a timetable for the village to meet the consent order’s requirements and has already initiated a series of nitrate test samplings to be conducted for 18 months around the plant and in West Brook. Blais said that the nitrate levels in West Brook are primarily due to sources of contamination other than the sewer plant.
“We’re only responsible for the effluent from our wastewater treatment plant, not the levels of nitrates in West Brook,” he said.
The advisory board also sent out "request for qualifications" to engineering firms to devise plant upgrades to remedy the non-compliant effluent and six responses have been received. Three of these engineering firms were asked to submit proposals by Aug. 5, with interviews to follow two days later. By Aug. 14, a firm is to be chosen to conduct the engineering study and recommend plant upgrades to reduce nitrates.
The testing program is expected to cost $30,000 and the Fund for Lake George has volunteered to donate towards the cost.
“The Village has a remarkable history of being good stewards to our beautiful lake,” Blais said, citing various ongoing efforts to preserve the water quality and combat aquatic invasive species. “We have always been a leader in efforts to protect the lake and the environment,” the Mayor said.
Blais continued that the village will commit whatever resources are necessary to upgrade the sewer plant and meet the requirements of the consent order.
Improvements to the sewer plant to reduce nitrates in its outflow are expected to cost $2.5 million to $4 million. Blais said he and village officials will be seeking federal and state grants as well as low-interest loans.
“Whatever the cost, bringing our plant into compliance will be our first priority,” he said.