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Committee gets earful on septic system inspection law

Warren County Septic Inspection Upon Transfer Committee

Members of the special Warren County Septic Inspection Upon Transfer Committee held a public hearing on Wednesday at Lake George Town Hall to get input on the law. 

LAKE GEORGE — Members of the public were split over Warren County’s proposed law requiring inspection of septic systems upon property transfer, with some saying the legislation did not go far enough and others saying it was government overreach.

The law would require inspection of septic systems that are within 250 feet of certain water bodies upon transfer of the property. It applies to properties on Lake George, Schroon Lake, Schroon River, Brant Lake, Loon Lake, Lake Luzerne, Friends Lake and the Hudson River.

The special county committee that drafted the law held a public hearing on Wednesday at Lake George Town Hall. Another hearing will be held Friday at the Warren County Board of Supervisors meeting at 10 a.m. The legislation could be adopted at that point.

Conor Gillis, director of government affairs for the Southern Adirondack Realtors, expressed concern that it would hinder people’s ability to sell properties. He pointed out that not all water bodies are included. This could put sellers that live near the included water bodies at a distinct disadvantage in trying to sell their properties.

“He or she may decide that a lengthy inspection process is not worth it,” he said.

Gillis said the Realtors have shared goals into protecting water quality and he worries that only inspecting systems upon transfer risks not catching problems soon enough.

He suggested an educational campaign to inform people about septic systems.

Lake George resident John Carr also suggested an educational campaign, rather than a “heavy-handed” government policy. He said one of the number one issues is people do not know where their septic systems are.

He worried that the law would hold up transactions.

Carr suggested a program similar to one in Vermont, which requires septic systems to have inspection ports, which make it easier to pump out.

He also said the law as written would not catch problems soon enough.

“If the property doesn’t transfer, you’re not going to help the environment for years,” he said.

Christine Hayes, who works as an assessor for Bolton and Horicon, said she believes the law would put a strain on the county to enforce.

“You’re going to have to hire a lot of people. It’s going to take a lot of money,” she said.

Frank Gabriel, who lives on Friends Lake, said he believes the law falls short, and pointed to the 250-foot requirement. He said the Lake George Park Commission is developing its own septic regulations and focusing on areas 500 feet from water bodies.

“The law here is nice on paper. I don’t think it’s going to have much of an impact, but it is a start,” he said. “Without the proper administration and enforcement, you’re wasting everybody’s time and you’re fooling the public.”

Jack Herring, of Lake Luzerne, worried that the law may be unconstitutional because it contained a provision that would allow inspectors onto the property to determine compliance.

Jim Niles, who also lives in Lake Luzerne, said he did not see the harm in putting the law in place and tweaking it later.

“I really think there is a much potential greater harm if we don’t get moving on something like this,” he said.

Members of committee reiterated some of their concerns. Horicon Supervisor Sylvia Smith worried that property owners would be upset that the law applied to certain water bodies and not others.

She said the law needed more time to review.

Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Mike Wild said there is a greater than 50% chance that the law will pass on Friday. He said he believes it has not been well though out and thoroughly vetted.

Stony Creek Supervisor Frank Thomas said he believes the committee has more work to do.

“I think we’re going to cause as many problems as we’re going to solve,” he said.

Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Doug Beaty said the law may need some tweaking.

Rachel Seeber, chairwoman of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, said the law may need some more work and said the committee, set to disband at the end of the year, could stay intact.

Michael Goot covers politics, crime and courts, Warren County, education and business. Reach him at 518-742-3320 or mgoot@poststar.com.

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