Lake George Benefits from New State Program to Combat Harmful Algal Blooms

Lake George Mirror

Re-affirming the many connections between a clean environment and a healthy economy, nearly all the state’s Regional
Economic Development grants awarded to Lake George basin communities in December will protect or improve water quality.

As far as I’m concerned, water quality and economic development are one and the same,” said Ron Conover, the chairman of the Warren County Board of Supervisors. “Anything that fosters water quality has a positive effect upon the economy. An entire industry has grown up here to support the hundreds of thousands of people who vacation on Lake George because it’s such a special place.”

As it happens, Conover’s Town of Bolton was the watershed’s largest winner, receiving a $1 million grant to help rehabilitate its waste water treatment plant.

Studies of the sixty-year-old plant, including one conducted by Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky and Dr. Jim Sutherland, found the plant to be “inadequate and in need of upgrade and, or, replacement.”

Kathy Suozzo, the environmental engineer retained by the town to recommend measures to improve the plant’s efficiency and monitor its operations, noted that as originally constructed, the plant “lacked the ability to denitrify,” – or remove nitrogen from effluent. Suozzo recommended, among other things, the construction of wood chip bioreactors - underground trenches filled with high-grade woodchips.

According to Chris Navitsky, filtering effluent through wood chips can “significantly” decrease its levels of nitrogen – a nutrient that contributes to the growth of algae.

The grant to Bolton is the first ever awarded by New York State to fund this particular experimental, low-cost technology.

According to a municipal official familiar with the grant, the Department of Environmental Conservation views Bolton’s bioreactors as a pilot project for other communities throughout the state.

In addition to the woodchip bioreactor, the grant will also fund a number of items to improve the efficiency of the plant, said Suozzo.

Conover said the state funds will also be used to improve the municipal sewer system, from the pump station at Rogers Park to manholes and mains, which will be slip- lined to prevent storm water from infiltrating the lines and effluent from seeping into ground water.

The town will also construct an underground holding tank near the pump station to contain any sewage that might otherwise be spilled in the event of a power failure or accident, said Conover.

Suozzo said the entire project is expected to cost more than $1.3 million. The Town of Bolton will match a portion of the state’s contributions.

State Focus on Harmful Algal Blooms Helped Steer Funding To Lake George

According to Kathy Suozzo, the source of the funding for Bolton’s waste water treatment system is a program to combat and prevent Harmful Algal Blooms, which Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced to the public last year.

In 2018, Cuomo announced that New York State would devote $60 million to combat Harmful Algal Blooms in twelve upstate New York lakes.

Lake George is unique among the twelve lakes because Harmful Algae Blooms have yet to surface here, said Eric Siy, The Fund for Lake George’s executive director.

Lake George is viewed by the state as the example that other water bodies should emulate. That’s a tribute to the partners working here. It’s cause for celebration, but also cause for concern, because Harmful Algal Blooms could erupt at any time, anywhere,” said Siy.

A plan to strengthen Lake George’s defenses against Harmful Algal Blooms emerged from a conference held last March at Ticonderoga’s Best Western hotel.

Created by staff from the Department of Environmental Conservation and a steering committee that included the Lake George Association, The Fund for Lake George, the Lake George Park Commission and the Darrin Fresh Water Institute, the plan includes wastewater treatment plant improvements, new septic systems and stormwater controls.

According to Waterkeeper Navitsky, every project would help reduce pollution from nutrients, the source of the sometimes-toxic algae that the Governor’s initiative is meant to address.

These projects “were among the top priorities in the HAB Action Plan,” said Eric Siy. “They were given preferential treatment when grants were awarded.”

The newly-available funding for such projects, Ron Conover said, “was the opportunity we were waiting for to rehabilitate our wastewater treatment system. Fortunately, our application for funding was very closely aligned to the DEC’s plan to combat HABs on Lake George. We’re grateful to Governor Cuomo for launching this initiative.”

This year, $50 million of the $60 million earmarked to fight Harmful Algal Blooms was spent in grants to lakes throughout upstate New York, the Department of Environmental said in a December 2018 press release.

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