The Village of Lake George has a small population during the winter months, but in the summer it draws tens of thousands of visitors on any given day. The Warren County village needs to overhaul its wastewater treatment plant, but funding a new facility is proving to be a challenge.
The Village of Lake George wastewater treatment plant is under consent order with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to address elevated levels of nitrates.
The village’s wastewater treatment plant dates back to the 1930s and the village is eyeing a replacement. But a project that was once estimated at $18 million a few years ago, is getting more expensive by the day. Mayor Robert Blais says that’s because lumber and steel are getting more expensive.
“The plant could cost us as much as $24 to $25 million,” said Blais.
While the village has secured about $7.5 million in funding and has been qualified for a $15 million no-interest loan from the state, the project would still have an enormous impact on taxpayers.
Lake George has a small population during the off-season, but in the summer, Mayor Blais says the population can reach 26,000 on any given day.
“If we had our citizens that are here year-round we could’ve built a treatment plant for probably $6 million but because we treat for all these people and we host all these people for New York State in the summer, we have to build a $24 million treatment plant. And it’s just unreasonable for the state to expect us to do this all alone without being a partner with us,” said Blais.
Blais says because the village has already received some grant funding, and because of the time-table due to the consent order with DEC, that has impacted the village’s ability to apply for additional state dollars.
The mayor and other advocates had sought money for the wastewater plant in the recently passed state budget. However, the funding was not included.
FUND for Lake George Executive Director Eric Siy was among those who testified before members of the Democratic-controlled state legislature for the funding. He said he’s been talking with the business community about the importance of the project.
He said if the repairs are not made, Lake George runs the risk of experiencing a harmful algal bloom.
The FUND’s Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky says the impacts are already being seen.
“We’ve documented increases in blue-green algae in the tributary West Brook leading into Lake George. We have not seen toxic levels, but we have seen the increase in blue-green algae,” said Navitsky.
Lake George has been identified in the state’s Harmful Algal Bloom Action Plan.
State Senator Betty Little, along with Assemblyman Dan Stec, both Republicans, are also advocating for the funding. Senator Little says if the plant is not upgraded, the health of the Queen of American Lakes is at risk.
“It’s a great little village, it’s a great tourist attraction, but we need to keep the lake clean or everything is affected. And it’s all the way up and down the lake. All these different motels, second homes, facilities that are on the lake. It would have a terrible impact on them if we didn’t keep the lake in pristine condition,” said Little.
But, Little says there’s still time.
And Mayor Blais hopes that a portion of the $500 million in clean water infrastructure funding in the state budget could help.
“There’s $500 million in there for clean water and refurbishing sewer plants, water filtration plants, so we’re hoping that they just didn’t take time to designate the various projects that were going to receive that pot of money, and now they’ll sit down and do that,” said Blais.
The legislative session ends in June.