QUEENSBURY — The long effort to get sewer added on a narrow peninsula of Lake George is hitting huge hurdles.
The first: Many residents suspect the cost will be beyond what they’re willing to pay.
The second: A grant that would determine the cost is in limbo while the town negotiates land rights for the sewage treatment plant that would handle the waste.
Time is ticking. Warren County must apply for the grant by July 26. If negotiations aren’t done by then, the county will apply next year.
“We need a letter of support from the property owner” where the plant would go, said Warren County Senior Planner Chris Belden. “We can’t include Queensbury on this grant without that letter.”
The grant is crucial because it would determine the cost of the sewer system. And the support of the residents will rise or fall depending on the cost.
Some residents of the Rockhurst Road neighborhood have been working hard to bring sewer. They’ve talked to all of their neighbors, hammering on the importance of protecting the lake from sewage.
Warren County Planning and the Lake George Land Conservancy are on their side.
“The idea is to get the waste as far away as we can,” Belden said.
And many residents agree that sewer would eliminate the inconveniences of septic.
Resident Win Thomas rented port-a-potties recently when he held a reunion at his lakeside house. He had 70 people there for the day, and he didn’t think his septic system could handle the strain.
He and his wife also don’t use their washer for fear of overloading the septic system. They, and many other residents, haul their laundry to a laundromat.
“It would be easier living for everyone here, not having to keep up and maintain the septic systems and worry about polluting the lake,” Thomas said. “I think sewer would just be much better for the environment.”
Resident Jacqueline Koenig has trained her children and grandchildren to flush infrequently when they come to visit. She has two holding tanks at her house, and a septic system at the house she owns across the street. Leaving yellow to mellow isn’t her only way of preserving the systems.
“Don’t take showers,” she said. “My son tells his kids, put some shampoo in your hair and go jump in the lake,” she said.
Thomas supports sewer. But Koenig is happy to stay with her holding tanks, which she gets pumped out about twice a year.
“I don’t feel right now I want to invest the money (in sewer) because I’m OK,” she said. “It might happen in my children’s lifetime. Sewer is not going to happen in my lifetime. Maybe my children would want sewer.”
She added that the price is the issue.
“I think it’s a good idea — if it doesn’t cost $30,000,” she said.
Residents don’t know how much it will cost, though they floated a wide variety of estimates. Belden said he has no official estimate — and won’t until he can get a grant to do the engineering plan that would determine actual costs.
Resident Steve Kirshon is on the fence about the project. He supported sewer decades ago. He’s lived there since 1988. But in 2006, he installed a $50,000, state-of-the-art septic system. The leaching field is huge — it’s on both sides of his house. He gave up most of his parking to make room for it.
He’s happy with what he has.
“I’m not spending $50,000 when I spent $50,000 already,” he said. “It works great. Many of us put in new systems. And now they’re coming back and they want sewer? Why do I need it? I don’t.”
But at the same time, he thinks sewer could help the lake. He and others worry about reports of leaking systems. Some residents suspect that some people are illegally draining their washers into the lake.
“Let me be clear, we have to protect the lake,” Kirshon said. “The value here is we have pristine water. We’ve got to keep it that way. This is the greatest lake in the world.”
If the cost were “a few thousand” dollars a year, he said, he would do it.
“To help the lake. That’s the only reason,” he said.
He also has a simpler solution: holding tanks.
“That’s the answer,” he said.
Thomas, who wants sewer, thinks holding tanks would be the worst-case scenario because they need to be pumped so frequently.
“You don’t want to have to go to a holding tank,” he said.
But some residents are happy with it.
When Michael Doran and his wife renovated their house, the town “forced” them to go to a holding tank, he said. They stay for three months a year, and pump the tank every month.
“We don’t need sewer. We have the situation managed,” he said. “I can understand sewer protects the lake, but the idea of spending thousands on something we don’t need ... we don’t have that kind of money to spend.”