E. coli in the water prompts DEC to close Million Dollar Beach over the weekend

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lake george million dollar beach

Signs prohibiting swimming outside the fence of Million Dollar Beach in Lake George, N.Y. (Photo: Jay Petrequin)

LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation made the call on Saturday to close Million Dollar Beach, after recording E. coli levels that were too high to be considered safe.

The DEC announced the beach closed in a post on Twitter on Saturday, and then declared it reopened on Sunday.

The DEC sets the safety threshold at 235 E. coli colonies per 100 milliliters of water.

DEC representative Jomo Miller said in a statement that recent heavy rains were being considered as a potential cause, although causes remained under observation.

Miller said this was the first E. coli issue to be found in the lake since last year.

E. coli in the water has been a problem for both the beach and Lake George at large in previous years. The beach has been closed due to high levels before, and environmental activist groups around the lake such as the Lake George Association have been using that fact as a springboard to push for better regulation and upkeep of septic systems at lake-adjacent homes.

To further complicate matters, the DEC confirmed two harmful algal blooms on Lake George last year; one in Harris Bay in the summer, and one last November near Assembly Point.

According to the DEC, harmful algal blooms can be toxic to humans and pets, and can show up in streaks, clumps or murky areas on the water’s surface.

Blooms often crop up in water bodies as a result of an influx of nutrients into the water, including those that come from septic systems.

At one point last November, the bloom stretched out thin enough across the lake’s southern bays that it became invisible to the naked eye.

The DEC statement said that last year’s blooms dissipated quickly, and have not seen any resurgence.

Although the cause of the 2020 bloom remains under investigation, the Lake George Association has been vocal about septic runoff as a probable cause.

The state maintains NYHABS, an interactive map that currently shows all harmful algal blooms reported in the state within 2021. No blooms are currently shown as reported on Lake George, or elsewhere in the Adirondack Park.

The issue of wastewater and septic runoff into the lake has been one of importance to the Lake George region for some time.

In 2019, the village gave the OK to the creation of a new wastewater treatment plant, to replace the current one, which was built in the 1930s. That old plant was found to release large amounts of nitrates, which can also lead to the forming of harmful algal blooms.

The project was priced at at least $24 million, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledging $9.4 million in state grants to the project in early 2020. The village is asking Warren County for annual $100,000 installments of tax aid to cover the rest.

When bids to start construction went out in 2019, the village decree laying out the plan stipulated that the new plant had to be completed by August 2021.

Lake George Mayor Bob Blais did not return a call seeking comment on Monday on whether that date was still likely to be met.

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