In early October, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a grant award of $4,273,923 to Lake George Village towards the construction of its proposed new wastewater treatment plant.
Although the grant is about one-fourth the cost of the sewer plant’s projected cost, local municipal officials and representatives of environmental groups said this week they were pleased with the amount of the grant and fully appreciated the state’s commitment to protect Lake George.
Lake George Village Mayor Bob Blais said this financial commitment shows that Gov. Cuomo understands that Lake George citizens need a partnership with the state to maintain the purity of Lake George, which provides drinking water to many people in the region.
“We’re extremely thankful that the governor recognizes the importance of Lake George,” he said. “This grant gives us the opportunity to explore other funding avenues. To make the project affordable, we’ll need $9 to 10 million in grant money.”
Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky also voiced positive comments about the state grant. Navitsky spearheaded an 18-month research project which documented that nitrates in the existing sewer plant’s effluent were migrating a quarter-mile or so through groundwater into West Brook, which empties into Lake George. The research was conducted in 2014 and 1015 on behalf of the Fund for Lake George.
“We’re encouraged,” Navitsky said of Cuomo’s announcement. “This is a very good start — this grant moves the project forward.”
Navitsky noted that representatives of the governor’s office toured the plant when the concept for the plant’s total reconstruction was initially proposed.
“The sewer plant is archaic and far past its time, and the governor’s representatives recognized the need for a new plant.”
He said some legislators have the impression that Lake George residents can afford to pay for the cost of a new plant, estimated at $17 million.
“There’s a vision in Albany that Lake George is all mansions and rich property owners, but that’s not the case, particularly in the village,” he said.
The village has been sending out questionnaires to local residents, seeking income information for a survey to be submitted to the state’s Environmental Facilities Corporation, which provides grants for water and sewer infrastructure — with high priority given to communities with a large percentage of lower-income families. Navitsky said that the survey results were expected to demonstrate financial hardship among taxpayers.
Blais said the survey results would likely trigger another grant to help offset the plant’s cost.
“We need only 10 more survey responses, and there’s a possibility we are going to come in under the poverty level,” he said. “If we do, that will probably gain us another $3.5 million.”
Navitsky also predicted that more money would be forthcoming.
“Gov. Cuomo likes to award grants to projects that are shovel-ready, so we hope another round of funding comes to us when shovels actually hit the ground,” he said.
Years ago, the village was served with a consent order issued by the state Department of Environmental Conservation citing the plant’s excessive emission of nitrates. The order requires the village to upgrade its sewer plant.
Blais said the grant was timely, noting that the village had recently borrowed $1 million to launch the engineering work on the treatment plant.
“I think we convinced our partners at the state that Lake George deserves nothing but the latest technology, and that means an entirely new plant,” he said, noting that the existing sewer plant was 80 years old. The facility’s existing sand beds, he said, are now used as part of the treatment process, which they are not meant to be.
“The plant’s effluent needs to be of drinking-water quality,” he said, noting the more stringent state standards enforced in recent years. “Lake George deserves the best, and the state recognizes that.”
Walt Lender also said he was pleased with the $4.27 million grant award.
“It’s great news for Lake George — not only for the village itself but for the whole watershed,” he said. “The village wastewater treatment plant definitely needs to be upgraded with the latest technology, and the residents of the village certainly can’t shoulder the whole financial burden.”
He said he hoped that federal money, as well as state grants, will be committed to the plant’s development.
“Lake George is an important tourism and recreational resource of New York State and has to be protected,” he said.