After several false starts this season, Million Dollar Beach in Lake George is closed again — just two weeks from the Fourth of July holiday — as a number of concerned towns and agencies run tests to determine the source of E. coli in the lake.
“This is an unprecedented occurrence on our lake that demands a swift response,” said Lake George Mayor Robert Blais in a news release from the state Department of Environmental Conservation. “The Village of Lake George has committed all available staff and resources and is working closely with DEC to resolve the problem and protect our beautiful lake.”
DEC announced Wednesday the beach will be closed through Friday, June 23, as the agency, along with the village and town of of Lake George, the Lake George Park Commission, Lake Champlain/Lake George Regional Planning Board, Lake George Association, and Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District, work on the problem. Recent water samples showed the number of E. coli colonies surpassed the level determined safe by the Department of Health.
Problems began late last summer when the beach was closed after bacterial contamination was detected during regular water testing by DEC. The department studied possible sources, including sewer and storm-water systems, waterfowl, and storm-water management, and determined the problem to be human waste.
DEC in May declared the water safe, and the beach opened May 27, though testing was ongoing.
The beach has closed twice since, including this week.
“We think there’s a septic issue somewhere,” said Pat Dowd, director of communication for the Lake George Association, which is working with town and village employees to test sanitary lines from homes in the southeast corner of the village.
Of course this all becomes more troublesome for the town as the Fourth of July weekend approaches, an important tourist week for Lake George.
Many, including government in Albany, are interested in what’s going on at Lake George right now “because of the fact that for all intents and purposes, it’s an important vacation spot for people south of us,” Dowd said.
A special meeting convened this past Monday involving all concerned agencies and town and village officials.
The focus now seems to be on sanitary lines, though it is only the start of the investigation.
The village and town are using closed-circuit TV to review sanitary lines, and DEC is doing daily water testing to track E. coli levels. E. coli takes 24 hours to show up on tests.
DEC’s Microbial Source Trackdown and Tributary Monitoring teams are sampling water daily and increasing the locations where it is sampling, visually inspecting for discharge, studying the effect of rain on bacteria levels, testing samples to determine whether the E. coli is from humans, domestic animals, or wildlife, cleaning and raking the beach, and taking steps to keep waterfowl away and educating the public not to feed them.
“The fact is that everything is on the table right now,” Dowd said. “The primary concern is that there is a broken sanitary line leaking into one of the storm sewers. Ultimately, the potential for that to be the issue is something many people are looking at and saying more likely than not.”
The good news is, Dowd says, is all of the organizations in the region are in it together.
“I really have to say that this group is working really well together to cut up the tasks to solve the problem,” he said. “We all kind of look at it and say, we just have to solve this.”
Photo of Lake George Village from Prospect Mountain courtesy Diane Chase of Adirondack Family Time.