State commits $32 million to Adirondack water-sewer upgrades

Adirondack Council report says much more is needed

New York state has set aside $32 million for Adirondack communities as part of a clean water initiative. The Adirondack Council, an environmental group, reported that to update various reservoirs, waterways and sewage systems in the Adirondacks would cost upward of $100 million.

The grant money, announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, makes a dent in these costs, but it would still take approximately $85 million to cover all the necessary projects, the council says.

Adirondack Council Director of Communications John Sheehan said many Adirondack communities need to rebuild their water systems but don’t because the money just isn’t there.

“The costs were necessary but were not coming with help from the government,” he said.

This grant money may be a stepping stone to attaining more grants for renovating water and sewer systems throughout the Adirondacks.

Lake Placid’s Main Street is brought up in the Council’s report, titled “Wastewater Treatment Plants in the Adirondacks: Status of Compliance and Operational Needs.” The report said the sewer line replacement under Main Street should begin in 2018 and cost approximately $6.95 million.

Some of this new grant funding would go toward replacing septic tanks with sewer systems. Sheehan cited Elizabethtown, where the Adirondack Council is based, as a community that relies heavily on septic tanks.

“Just the sheer volume of people going in and out begged the question of why isn’t there a sewage system,” he said.

Sheehan said this grant money can help prevent environmental and health issues with water, such as some that have happened in the past.

Lake Champlain’s Whallon Bay in Essex was recently contaminated with blue-green bacteria. A blue-green bacterium has cyanide in it, which of course can be poisonous. It also doesn’t tend to occur naturally. Sheehan said it “generally happens around sewer treatment overflow or close to a series of septic tanks.”

Sheehan said the situation was rectified quickly but had the potential to devastate animals and wildlife.

Another example of contaminated water systems was in Lake George. Million Dollar Beach was closed multiple times in the past years because of E. coli.

A press release from the Council said it’s important to maintain healthy, natural waterways because the Adirondacks “is the source of nearly all of the state’s major rivers, including the Hudson, Mohawk, Raquette, Black, Ausable, Oswegatchie, St. Regis, Saranac and Beaver.”

Sheehan wanted to make it known that some small towns in the Adirondacks don’t have people who can help attain grants and that contacting the Adirondack Council for help could be beneficial for those communities.