Add The Fund for Lake George and its Lake George Waterkeeper program to the list of groups working diligently to discover what may be causing E.coli to show up in water testing at Million Dollar Beach. The beach — as of Thursday — is open, though water testing by DEC continues daily.
The Fund was invited to its first meeting about the problem last week and signed on to provide technical leadership, “expertise and advice,” said Chris Navitsky, Lake George Waterkeeper and a licensed engineer.
Navitsky is suggesting smoke-testing of sanitary sewage and stormwater pipes, part of the aging infrastructure. Until now, dye-testing and closed-circuit cameras have been used to test the pipes, which he says is less effective unless used during wet weather (when the problem seems to occur) or during high waste-flow times when more people are in the area. Smoke testing is effective during non-peak times.
Before smoke-testing can be done, affected residents must be notified.
“Older infrastructure may have breaks or contain undocumented cross connections between sanitary sewer and stormwater piping that result in discharges, such as detected in the vicinity of Million Dollar Beach,” said Navitsky in a press release. “We are advocating for the complete evaluation of local sewage piping, which should include smoke-testing to determine any possible sources of contamination.”
The Fund was already working with the Village of Lake George on a separate water quality threat near the beach that requires replacing the village’s aging wastewater treatment plant. A study conducted by the Waterkeeper showed seepage streams from the treatment plant near West Brook, which drains into the lake near Million Dollar Beach. Nitrates and other pollutants were found, though not bacteria, Navitsky said.
The village’s sewage treatment plant is 80 years old, Navitsky said, so some of the piping could be that old as well.
“The final West Brook monitoring report documents the impact outdated infrastructure can have on the Lake ecosystem. This may be the case with regard to the Million Dollar Beach contamination,” noted Navitsky in the release.
The Waterkeeper is currently administering a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation grant for the Town of Lake George Septic Initiative focused on prioritizing individual septic system replacements.