BOLTON The Sagamore Resort paid a $12,000 fine and is completing an evaluation of the site’s complex wastewater system after last year’s sewage spill.
The Sagamore entered into an order on consent with the state Department of Environmental Conservation this spring after the estimated 7,000 gallons of sewage leaked from the resort’s wastewater system into Lake George on Sept. 24, 2014.
Under the April 30 consent order, the resort was assessed a fine of $27,000. Of that, $12,000 was due within 60 days. The remaining $15,000 was suspended, contingent on completion of all other requirements of the order.
In August, the DEC signed a modified order on consent for a three-month extension of deadlines set in the original order.
“We certainly appreciate the extension. It’s an extensive study here at the hotel. It’s not a simple sewer system,” said The Sagamore’s general manager, Tom Guay, explaining that the system includes a planned unit development, many condos and other buildings.
He said the resort is working with Schoder Rivers Associates of Queensbury and some other private companies on the study.
“We weren’t granted an extension because of a problem. We just need time to evaluate a complex system. That’s all. I think that’s why the DEC granted it with no pushback,” Guay said.
A letter to the DEC from the resort dated Oct. 7, 2014, reported the cause of the overflow was an obstruction in the sewer line believed to have been caused by grease buildup, and described steps taken by the Sagamore to clear the line.
According to an email from DEC Region 5 spokesman David Winchell, the requirements of the order included the following:
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- “Evaluation of the wastewater treatment system and its components including pump stations, grease traps, manholes, and sewer lines; and recommendations for any necessary repairs or improvements;
- An acceptable schedule for completion of any necessary upgrades or other corrective actions;
- An acceptable schedule for the implementation of procedures identified as necessary to prevent blockages or other operational problems; and
- An acceptable revised operation and maintenance plan for the wastewater treatment system.”
Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky said he hopes the study has also taken into account the ratio of wastewater flowing in versus wastewater flowing out. If that ratio is off, there could be leaks in the pipes, he said.
“When the spill occurred, there was nothing faulty. The system was working as designed. There was a blockage in one of the pipes. That’s what caused it. It wasn’t anything malfunctioning with the system. Once the blockage was removed, it was fine,” Guay said.
On Sept. 24, 2014, DEC staff responded to a complaint from the Lake George Park Commission of untreated sewage flowing into the lake from the resort on Green Island in Bolton Landing, according to the DEC statement.
DEC staff saw a plume of sewage in the lake, originating from the shoreline of Green Island near the southeast corner of the Sagamore Bridge. The source of the sewage was traced to an overflowing manhole on Sagamore Road.
A septage hauler pumped sewage from the manhole and hauled it to the town of Bolton wastewater treatment plant. A second overflow occurred, also flowing into Lake George, until it was diverted to a nearby lawn.
Workers from the town of Bolton, village of Lake George and the private waste hauler were able to re-establish wastewater flow off the island.
DEC staff estimated that about 13,000 gallons of untreated sewage was discharged, of which roughly 7,000 gallons made it to the water.
“One concern was just the level of fines assessed to these spills. I think it should be raised. The Clean Water Act authorizes up to $37,500 per day,” Navitsky said. “When these fines are one-third of that, it just seems there could be a stronger stick, so to say.”