In an article on The FUND for Lake George's website entitled, “Identifying Failing Onsite Systems on Lake George,” Chris Navitsky, the Lake George Waterkeeper and a resident of Hague, called algae the “canary in the coal mine.”
There are roughly 6,000 septic systems on the lake, an estimated two-thirds of which are old or outdated. With no laws requiring routine maintenance or pumping, it is not surprising that this subject is a focal point for improving the water quality of Lake George and protecting this vital drinking water source.
Chris began working with about 70 property owners from Dunham's Bay on the south end of the lake in 2014. The group formed the North Queensbury Wastewater District and began snorkeling and using syringes to collect algae from rocks and sand near the shore in three to six feet of water.
The samples were then sent to a certified laboratory for microscopic analysis. GPS coordinates were used to document where these indicator algae were found. Of the 20-30 types of algae found in the lake, only certain ones are associated with human waste.
Residents of Dunham's Bay have cooperated and 15 systems have been upgraded since 2014. Eleven of the 15 took advantage of Waterkeeper Grants of up to $8,000 to help defray the $14,000 to $20,000 cost of the upgrades. These upgrades usually included the replacement of the septic tank or addition of an advanced treatment system, as well as UV treatment prior to discharge to the leach field. The result has been a 25% reduction in the algae species associated with human waste in Dunham's Bay so far.
Property owners in a town can petition the town to form a wastewater district and tap into available funding. They must, however, agree to: municipal oversight and management, professionally engineered septic system plans, town approval of system improvements, implementing water conservation fixtures to reduce flows, and system inspections and service contracts for advanced systems.
With a large portion of the Town of Hague still using septic systems, it might be wise to follow the Dunham's Bay model.
Visit the Hague Water Quality Awareness Committee on Facebook or contact one of our Steering Committee members: Al Rider (Chairman), Jim Beaty, Lance Clark, Ginger Kuenzel, Josh Patchett, Steve Ramant, or me.