Keep Your Wastewater Out of the Lake
Improperly treated wastewater from aging, failing or inadequately designed septic systems is impacting Lake George water quality, threatening human health with organic matter, bacterial and viral pathogens, and feeding algae growth with excess nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus, that can potentially lead to harmful algal blooms (HABs).
Studies indicate that two-thirds of the 6,000-plus septic systems in the Lake George Basin are likely in need of maintenance or replacement. That’s 4,000 systems contributing to water quality decline.
If you’re a septic system owner, Lake George needs you to contribute to water quality protection by taking the actions below to ensure your septic system is operating properly.
From fixing to financing, SafeSepticSystems.org will take you through the process of making sure your system is Lake Safe. Your commitment to doing so will not only help protect our Lake, it will help secure the value of your property.
Find out how innovative new wastewater treatment systems can help you qualify for the LGA’s Low Impact Development (LID) certification.
By becoming a Lake Protector, the LGA will help guide you in the process of ensuring your septic system is not harming Lake George. Now is the time for all of us to do our part. Join us!
What we do together:
Priority Actions for Septic System Owners:
Know Your System
To properly maintain your system, you must first know where it is. Have the plans for your septic system readily available to you in the event of a system problem, as well as the original permits from your town or New York State. The plans are usually prepared by a licensed professional engineer and will detail the system components and their locations.
Maintain Your System
Septic systems require maintenance to function properly, just like your car or HVAC system (although not as frequently). You should have your system pumped every three to five years and be cautious with what you flush down your drains and toilets. If you have an enhanced treatment unit (“ETU”) rather than a septic system, the unit should be maintained according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Have Your System Inspected
Each time you have your system pumped, or if you are considering transferring your property to a new owner, take the opportunity to have the system inspected by a certified inspector. Ask your pumping contractor if they are certified to perform inspections or call a local engineering firm for an appointment or referral. Inspections are now required for property sales in Bolton and Queensbury.
Stop Using Tank Additives
Many products are advertised to “help” the operation and effectiveness of a septic system. Beware: Additives can contaminate groundwater, corrode a system, or create a situation where settled solids leave a tank resulting in clogged absorption fields. A properly designed, sited, installed and maintained septic system will need no chemical additives.
Care for Your Absorption Field
The absorption field is an important part of the system and must be protected. Do not plant trees or shrubs on the field to prevent damage from roots. Do not drive, park or pave over your absorption field, as this compacts soils, which can reduce infiltration or damage pipes.
Consider an Enhanced Treatment Unit
There are many types of enhanced treatment systems (ETUs) available today that can greatly increase the quality of discharge by removing a larger percentage of nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen. These include innovative in-ground systems as well as above-ground systems and even systems installed in the basement of your home.
What we do for you:
The Lake George Association and Lake George Waterkeeper work closely with the public and private sectors to create innovative wastewater protection programs and advocate for improved public policy on wastewater management to reduce nutrient pollution and protect the exceptional water quality of our Lake.
Protecting Dunhams Bay from Failing Septic Systems
We worked with residents of the Dunhams Bay area of the Town of Queensbury to demonstrate the need and community support for the first wastewater management district in the Lake George Basin. We also provided technical assistance to the Town in creating the District. The North Queensbury Wastewater Disposal District #1 was established in 2014. The District is eligible to pursue grant funding for system improvements, and also collects an annual fee from District members, which is used to offset the cost of District operations and to reimburse homeowners one half of the cost of a system pump-out every three years. We also funded a matching grant program that has helped spur the replacement of more than 20 systems in the neighborhood.
Supported New Village of Lake George Wastewater Treatment Plant
In 2015, the Lake George Waterkeeper conducted the definitive study showing that the Village of Lake George’s 1930s-era wastewater treatment plant was the dominant source of algae-feeding nitrates into the Lake. We then played a pivotal role in advocating for New York State funding for a new $24 million state-of-the-art treatment facility to more effectively clean the hundreds of millions of gallons of wastewater generated by Village residents and visitors each year. LGA President Eric Siy and a representative of our Council of Business Advisors provided testimony before a state legislative committee encouraging funding to protect the Lake that provides recreation and relaxation to so many state residents and generates significant tax revenue for the state itself.
Led Development of the Town of Lake George Septic Initiative Program
On behalf of the Town of Lake George, and with funding from NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, the Lake George Waterkeeper conducted a comprehensive analysis of the status of septic systems in the Town, finding that two-thirds had exceeded their life expectancy, were designed improperly, and/or suffer from a lack of maintenance. We then created an innovative GIS-based model that prioritizes specific areas of concern on a geographic basis, based on soil and topographic conditions, to guide the Town in future wastewater management efforts.
Supported Town of Bolton’s Adoption of Septic Inspection Program
We provided scientific and technical assistance to the Town of Bolton in preparing its local law requiring septic system inspection upon the transfer of a property to a new owner. We also funded the town’s Certified Septic Inspector Training Program.
Partnered with Bolton on a Wastewater Treatment Plant Woodchip Bioreactor
We provided a $50,000 grant to the Town of Bolton for the construction of a woodchip bioreactor at its municipal wastewater treatment plant to aid in the removal of nitrates before the effluent reaches Lake George. Nitrates spur algae growth and can lead to the development of Harmful Algal Blooms. We also secured and administer a $95,000 grant for a monitoring program to measure project efficiency.
Helping Craft Basin-wide Wastewater Management Program
Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky and LGA staff were part of a team that worked with the Lake George Park Commission to design a basin-wide septic system management program. The LGA continues to support homeowners by providing funds and information on this new program, which was launched in 2023.