Village of Lake George needs help covering cost of crucial wastewater treatment plant

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LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Village of Lake George is under a consent order to construct a new wastewater treatment plant.

Mayor Robert Blais said the current plant is nearly 85 years old. Aside from aging valves and machinery, there’s no way to eliminate nitrates from the water and nitrates feed algae.

“If we have a harmful algae bloom like some of the other lakes in New York have had, it will destroy our tourism and destroy our economy,” said Mayor Blais.

The Department of Environmental Conservation said the treatment plant is discharging excessive amounts of nitrates into the sand beds and soil, which eventually find their way into tributaries that lead to Lake George. If the problem is not fixed, the village could be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for exceeding the state’s allowable limits.

Mayor Blais told NEWS10 ABC he was caught off guard when he learned that their wastewater treatment plant was in bad shape. Over the years, they could have been putting money aside towards a new one, but he said they recently learned that the previous operator had been falsifying records.

“We put $2.5 million into our plant in the last eight years. We thought we were upgrading a plant that was working very well, when in fact, we were putting band-aids on a plant that wasn’t working, but we didn’t know it,” said Mayor Blais.

The Village started looking into designing a new plant about three years ago. and the Mayor said at that time it was estimated to cost about $18 million. It has since gone up to $24 million dollars.

The Mayor said his engineers told him the rise in cost was due to the tariffs and the price of steel and lumber.

“It’s a huge burden to place upon a small community,” said Mayor Blais.

The Mayor said when many people think of Lake George, they think of the mansions along the shores, homeowners that could seemingly handle a little tax hike. While their treatment plant services all of those homes, large resorts and campsites across town, the treatment plant itself is in the Village, so the cost comes out of their pockets.

The Mayor said there’s only about 1,000 year-round residents in the Village. The median household income is about $41,000. If they were to shoulder the entire cost, their taxes would go up 25 percent to 35 percent.

Surrounding hotel sewer rents would also rise about 66 percent, which means room rates would skyrocket.

“There’s the Catch 22. Here’s a small community having to build this large plant which needs to work on those busy days in the summer,” the mayor said. “It’s been our opinion right from the start that because we’re hosting these folks that are coming to beautiful Lake George, raising thousands of dollars for county, state, and local government from sales tax, occupancy tax, gasoline tax, you name it, they’re coming here to spend their money. We believe the state should be a partner with us in this meaningful project.”

New York State has already agreed to cover $6.7 million. The village would only be able to contribute about $9 million, which leaves another $9 million they need to come up with. The Mayor said he’s optimistic that the state will step up.

“There’s $500 million that’s been set aside in the Governor’s budget for clean water and infrastructure improvements, and that’s what we’re hopeful we’ll be considered for. You can’t put a price on protecting Lake George,” he said.  

Under the DEC consent order, the plant must be under construction by December 2019 and operating by 2021. The Mayor said they’ll need a response from the state by August 1. If they don’t get the necessary funding, the Village board will have an enormous decision to make.

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