Thanks to citizen involvement, water quality monitoring expertise, and a responsive local government, a sewage line problem in the Village of Lake Placid near Mirror Lake was detected and resolved quickly. The following is a timeline of events that highlights the rapid detection of and response to this issue.
Wednesday, September 27th Nevton Dunn, a member of the Mirror Lake Watershed Associated, reported seeing black water below the stormwater outfall that enters Mirror Lake at the bottom of the hill coming down Saranac Avenue. Black water immediately throws up a red flag as a possible issue with sewage.
Thursday, September 28th Brendan Wiltse, AsRA's Science & Stewardship Director, collected water samples to be analyzed at the Adirondack Watershed Institute for chemical analysis and Endyne for bacteriological analysis. Brendan notes that the discharge into lake was low (1L/min) and intermittent. The extent of the black water was limited to a somewhat stagnant pool below the stormwater outfall.
Monday, October 2nd Brendan installed a sampling device in the outfall that binds optical brighteners. The device needs to soak in the water for 48hrs before being dried and analyzed. The presence of optical brighteners, found only in laundry detergents, is a definitive sign that there is a sewer leak.
Late that same afternoon the results of the bacteriological analysis from Endyne were returned. The results showed high concentrations of E. coli, a fecal indicator bacteria. Such high concentrations of E. coli strongly suggested an interconnection between the sewer and stormwater systems.
Tuesday, October 3rd Brendan relayed the E. coli information to the Village of Lake Placid and offered technical assistance with tracking the source. The Village immediately responded and within a matter of hours had located the source of the sewage and applied a temporary fix.
Wednesday, October 4th the Village of Lake Placid continued to work on a perminent fix of this issue and addressed other structural concerns with the stormwater and sewer systems that were identified. Chemical analysis from AWI were returned documenting high concentrations of phosphorus entering the lake.
Sewage entering a stormwater system with the potential of entering a nearby lake is a significant concern. In this case, the leak was relatively small, intermittent, and not easily detected. Without the early report by a concerned citizen, this issue may have gone unnoticed for a much longer time. Rapid response by AsRA staff, quickly collecting the appropriate data to determine if there was a problem, helped Village employees to pinpoint and begin resolving the issue. Engaged citizens, a responsive local government, and an established monitoring program that can rapidly respond to water quality issues are essential to healthy communities.
AsRA will continue to monitor this situation closely and conduct additional testing, if necessary, to determine the impact on the ecology of the lake. The Village of Lake Placid and NYS Department of Health are currently conducting additional bacteriological testing to address human health concerns.
The Mayor of the Village of Lake Placid, Craig Randall, says "We are pleased that the issue got addressed quickly and at least for the moment successfully so it won't continue to reoccur." The Village of Lake Placid recently approved a $1.2 million expenditure to replace the sewer line in the vicinity of where this issue took place. We applaud the Village for recognizing the need for this important infrastructure improvement before a major failure took place and for the rapid response to this recent issue. This underscores the widespread backlog of water infrastructure needs documented with the Adirondack Park.
Moving forward, AsRA and our partners are evaluating the need to more closely study and monitor stormwater systems within the watershed. AsRA sampled all of the stormwater outfalls around Mirror Lake in early 2016 and did not detect signs of a sewer leak at that time. Early detection and rapid response to critical environmental issues like these protects our essential water resources and saves taxpayers a lot of money on more costly repairs.