Amanda May Metzger
July 16, 2014
The Post Star
LAKE GEORGE – For the last several years, the village of Lake George’s wastewater treatment plant exceeded state levels for nitrate discharge, and a fix could cost up to $4 million.
To no avail, the village has spent millions of dollars to address the ongoing problem at the approximately 70-year-old plant on Birch Avenue.
“We have upgraded individual components of the plant and probably spent $5 million in the last eight to 10 years, but nothing has seemed to work,” Lake George Mayor Robert Blais said.
For 29 out of 32 months, bi-weekly sampling for nitrates in the village monitoring wells around the perimeter of the plant showed levels exceeding daily limits, prompting the state Department of Environmental Conservation to place the village under an order of consent.
The recent order requires the plant to reduce nitrate discharge levels to below maximum limits and fines the village $3,900.
Also, the village was ordered to submit an engineering report no later than Sept. 1, 2015, that defines the facility’s problem, evaluates potential fixes and includes cost estimates and a construction schedule.
Knowing the consent order was coming, Blais said village officials began working with the DEC months ago and took steps to address the problem, appointing a Project Control Committee including engineers Dave Decker, executive director of the Lake George Watershed Coalition, and Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky as well as Jim Sutherland, a retired scientist from the DEC.
The committee planned a timetable to conform to the consent order and already initiated 18 months of testing around the plant and West Brook to measure the nitrates coming from the plant.
Nitrates are a form of nitrogen found naturally in soil. When excess levels get into water bodies, that can lead to algae growth because nitrates provide nutrients.
The committee sent out a “request for qualifications” for an engineering firm to evaluate and recommend a process for removing nitrates. Six responses came in and three firms were chosen to submit requests for proposals by Aug. 5, followed by interviews on Aug. 7. A firm will be chosen by Aug. 14.
If the village doesn’t meet the deadlines, the DEC could impose fines up to $19,000, Blais said.
“We feel very confidently we can meet the deadlines. Prior to receiving that order we met with the DEC and asked, ‘What else can we do to move this forward?’ and they suggested testing the streams to see exactly how much the village is contributing to and what gets down into West Brook,” Blais said.
He said the committee began testing more than a month ago. The Fund for Lake George has pledged $30,000 to pay for the testing program.