LAKE GEORGE — With Labor Day weekend approaching, local officials are pleased that Million Dollar Beach has only had one closure due to E. coli pollution so far, back on June 1.

Investigations of upstream areas continue, as some wetlands and streams are still showing spikes of the bacteria, but officials say it does not appear to be making it into the lake proper.

That’s good news for tourism in the area, which took a slight hit after the beach closed twice, and in 2017 closed on four separate occasions.

“The beach has been doing great,” said Dan Barusch, director of planning and zoning for the town of Lake George. “I would say between 95 and 99% of the testing, which is being done daily at four spots on the beach, are single-digit results, which means very, very low.”

Beach closures happen when E. coli is detected at levels of 235 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters or higher, according to the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Million Dollar Beach, which is owned and operated by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, experienced E. coli issues starting in 2016. E. coli, which is found in human feces, can cause diarrhea, nausea and other health complications if someone is exposed.

The bacteria has been a problem for other water bodies in the area. Most recently, Brown’s Beach on Saratoga Lake in Stillwater closed. The town posted on its Facebook page Tuesday that tests came back clear and the beach will reopen 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Barusch was not aware of any closures at Million Dollar Beach, but the DEC said it closed the beach to swimming on June 1 and reopened it on June 8. The beach was only open on weekends during that time of year.

DEC said it is working with “partners to identify and prevent potential sources of pathogens from impacting the lake. In the last year, major improvements have been made to strengthen water infrastructure around the beach, resulting in significant progress in water quality.”

Some of the things the DEC does to monitor the area include video inspections of sanitary and stormwater lines servicing the beach and nearby Lake George Battlefield. It also monitors the nearby tributaries and residential areas.

Barusch said while Million Dollar Beach has been clear this summer, state and local officials are examining what to do about a popular unregulated beach next door called Dog Beach.

An outfall near the beach has shown high levels of E. coli, Barusch said, but the state has fenced off the area.

Randy Rath, project manager for the Lake George Association, said he and others are still investigating the neighborhood around Cedar Lane where some spikes have been detected, too.

The levels this year have not been as high as last year, Rath said. There were multiple E. coli hits of 2,400 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters last year, but Rath said this year the spikes are closer to 600.

“I think we saw one day where it was 2,400, and that was after a rain event,” Rath said. “The whole area has just been sort of a conundrum, figuring out what the source is.”

In the meantime, the town has slip-lined between 4,000 and 5,000 linear feet of its sewer mains, mostly in the Caldwell Sewer District, Barusch said.

The town has also conducted spot repairs, closing up holes that were found in the mains and clearing out manholes.

Since there are still some bacteria detected in the streams and upland areas, Barusch said the town is applying for more state funding to conduct more projects and studies “to understand where it’s coming from and to mitigate its entrance into the water.”

“We’re going to keep the efforts up and still figure out what’s going on in those edges,” Barusch added. “But we’re happy to see that the beach is clean. That was the big thing.”

The DEC does not notify local news media when it closes Million Dollar Beach. It’s protocol is to post signs and notify the mayor and town supervisor.

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Reporter Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (518) 742-3238 or gcraig@poststar.com. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.


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