Hole in old sewer line leads to leak into Mirror Lake

DPW has fixed though village asks no one to swim in water

A sign posted at the Lake Placid village beach Wednesday informs people of a sewer leak and asks them to avoid swimming in the water.
(Enterprise photo — Antonio Olivero)

A sign posted at the Lake Placid village beach Wednesday informs people of a sewer leak and asks them to avoid swimming in the water. (Enterprise photo — Antonio Olivero)

LAKE PLACID — A sewage leak into Mirror Lake occurred recently due to a hole in an old, unused pipe within the more than century-old sewer line infrastructure underneath this village’s Main Street.

The village’s Department of Public Works has since repaired the hole, effectively plugging the leak and stopping the sewer line runoff from entering the water body Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall has described as this village’s “crown jewel,” Mirror Lake. But as a precautionary measure, the village has posted a swim-at-your-own risk advisory at the public beach and the beaches at the Mirror Lake Inn and High Peaks Resort, near where the leak occurred.

The sewer line leak was entering Mirror Lake at a storm drain at the shoreline near One Main Street, at the northern terminus of the street. Village officials were alerted to the leak by Nevton Dunn of the Mirror Lake Watershed Association, who described black water and an odorous smell near that shoreline outlet in recent days.

Dunn also informed Brendan Wiltse, the science and stewardship director of the AuSable River Association, of his concerns. Wiltse subsequently collected two water samples at this site last Thursday. At that time Wiltse smelled a minor odor, but before testing results were in, he was unsure if it was due to a dead animal located in the system or a sewage leak into the stormwater system that drains into the lake.

“It was, I would say a relatively small leak,” Wiltse said. “I’ve visited that storm drain at least three times over the last week, and there was about a liter-per-minute coming out of it at its highest flow. At other times, it wasn’t really releasing anything, not like massive amounts of sewage gushing into the lake.”

Still, Wiltse remained cautious and somewhat concerned as he conducted his testing. He received the results late afternoon Monday, which showed the E. Coli concentration was very high. He alerted the village Tuesday, and suggested the results indicated that the sewer line under Main Street may be leaking into the stormwater line that brings water into the lake at that outlet.

“[The E. Coli concentration] was high enough where it was pointing in the direction of some kind of interconnection between systems,” he said.

Wiltse described village Department of Public Works head Brad Hathaway as responding to the problem immediately. Hathaway and his crew snaked cameras through the stormwater system and subsequently found what Lake Placid Deputy Mayor Art Devlin said was a hole in an old abandoned galvanized pipe near where the sewer line system turns from descending underneath Saranac Avenue to continue southward down Main Street.

“And because that pipe was still there,” Devlin said, “during high flow rates stuff would back up into that abandoned line and go into the old galvanized pipe, which had the leak in it.”

Village DPW plugged the problem within hours and continued work into Wednesday to adjust some other structural issues found in the storm and sewer systems in that same area, Devlin said.

The hole in the old system and leak into the lake come at a bad timing for the village, as they awarded a bid Monday for the work to repair that system. That work will occur in the spring.

“It’s a crime it didn’t last longer,” Devlin said of the old infrastructure.

Devlin added that when Hathaway found the hole the village informed the state Department of Environmental Conservation, NY-Alert, and the Department of Health. State DOH is subsequently conducting testing of the lake, and Devlin said the village will know further details on the water quality of the lake due to the leak by noon Thursday.

“I think what the village is doing is the right course of action to notify people particularly in those areas right around where the leak was occurring,” Wiltse said. “The concentration of E. Coli coming directly out of the pipe was really high, enough where I wouldn’t want to have recreational contact.”

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