“…Replacing the village's 85-year-old sewer plant is atop the mayor's list right now, with Blais trying to hustle up additional state aid to defray the anticipated $22 million cost. The old plant has to be replaced because it is releasing elevated levels of nitrogen into the lake, which can fuel algae blooms that threaten the lake's legendarily clear waters.
Since 1980, algae levels in the lake, particularly in its southern portion around the village, have been steadily increasing, reducing the clarity of the water.
The sewer issue has been a flashpoint in the village since it was found in 2014 that the former official in charge of the plant had been forging pollution reports as far back as 2007 to make it appear that water standards were being met.
Blais said he and other village officials were caught flat-footed by that revelation, and have been struggling with how best to build and finance a replacement plant that is sufficient to handle the busiest days of the summer tourism season.
“The lake is everything. It is the engine, and we have to protect it,” Blais said. To help do that, he headed the Save Lake George Partnership, a coalition of environmental groups and municipal agencies that created a boat inspection program in 2013 to keep invasive species from being brought into the lake.
“Bob is a force of nature and for nature,” said Eric Siy, executive director of the Fund for Lake George, a lake advocacy group that helped support the boat inspection program. “He has the ability to engage diverse people with that passion that he has and that this special place evokes.”
Siy said the boat inspection program, which he said is the strictest east of the Mississippi River, is “a crowning achievement” of Blais' long tenure.
Now Blais is thinking that he might not finish this term, should the sewer plant issue get resolved soon enough. Construction of the new plant will start this summer, and Blais has been busy trying to boost state support for the project to save the village from having to boost its sewer rates and taxes too much to cover the debt…”
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