Lake George Waterkeeper: Bolton’s Plant Also Needs Upgrades

Anthony F. Hall
The Lake George Mirror

The Village’s Wastewater Treatment Plant is not the only one on the lake that needs to be replaced.

Bolton’s sixty year old plant can “best be described as inadequate and in need of upgrade and/or replacement,” a study conducted by Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky and Dr. Jim Sutherland for The Fund for Lake George and the Town of Bolton concludes.

The two-year study found that there was an indisputable, causal relationship between the failing treatment plant and elevated levels of nitrates and phosphorous in Bolton Bay. 

At one private beach, “high concentrations of nutrients are causing water quality issues near shore and rendering the area un-usable,” the report states.

According to Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover, a new treatment plant will cost as much as $10 million.

For a small community to make infrastructure investments is enormously challenging. Once the Village of Lake George’s new plant is funded, we may be in line for federal and state support. The public, rightly, wants to know what we’re doing in the mean time. We’re setting the stage for immediate improvements,” said Conover.

At its September 5 meeting, the Town Board voted to establish “a Sewer Plant Project Improvement Account” to fund upgrades at the plant, including one that will turn two sandbeds into “wood chip bioreactors” - trenches filled with woodchips.

According to Town officials, woodchips can extract as much as 60% of the nitrogen remaining in the wastewater already treated by the plant. 

The Town Board has allotted $180,000 to fund the various improvements, including $16,000 for the wood chip bioreactors. A second resolution adopted on September 5 authorizes the board to borrow the funds from the town’s Community Development Fund.

According to Conover, the bioreactor project originated with Kathy Suozzo, an environmental engineer who was retained to study Bolton’s wastewater treatment plant and propose measures that will improve the plant’s efficiency.

Conover said Suozzo’s recommendations aligned with those made by Navitsky and Sutherland. 

Navitsky calls his study “a watershed-wide assessment” that examined not only the plant itself, but the streams, seeps, septic systems and groundwater infiltrations that may be among the vectors carrying pollutants to Dula Pond, Mohican Point and ultimately Lake George. 

The $45,000 study was conducted “at no cost to the town; it was paid for by The Fund for Lake George and the Lake George Waterkeeper,” said Navitsky. 

Among other things, the study found that ground water was collecting discharges or effluent from the wastewater treatment plant before it merged with surface waters draining into Lake George.

It also found that some monitoring wells intended to sample discharges from the plant “currently, are not collecting groundwater,” said Navitsky.

As a consequence, the Town of Bolton may lack crucial information about how well or how poorly the plant is functioning. 

There’s a possibility that the plant is not in compliance with state limits on the discharge of pollutants. If that’s the case, it may be illegally polluting Lake George. We’re not sure,” said Navitsky.

Conover said the entire plant, the monitoring wells included, will be evaluated to make certain “that the effluent produced by the treatment plant is as good as it can be. It’s what we should be doing for the lake and for the environment.” 

Conover added that renovations at the plant will begin as soon as New York State’s Department of Enviromental approves the recommendations, the plans and engineering designs. 

Our public works crews will do as much of the work as possible to reduce the costs of the projects,” said Conover.

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