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Dog-sniffing

Workers and tracker dogs from Environmental Canine Services in Maine help detect E. coli sources at Million Dollar Beach in August.

On June 9, Lake George’s Million Dollar Beach was closed when E. Coli levels were found to be twice the state threshold.

Two weeks later, the beach was closed again for several days.

The source of the contamination was never definitively identified, but it is clear that Lake George has a problem that we believe can be contained if strong actions are taken by local communities.

The results of a recent study for the Lake George Town Board showed at least a third of the town’s septic systems near the lake are past their life expectancy of 30 years.

More than half the residents surveyed said they did not know when their septic tank had last been pumped.

The study also found there were cesspools – where human waste is not filtered at all – still in use near the lake.

And maybe more disturbing, two-thirds of those with septic systems within 500 feet of Lake George did not bother to respond to the survey.

The survey identified about 500 parcels and about 400 individual on-site wastewater systems within that critical 500 feet of the lake. So while none of the 400 systems were actually tested, that is the next logical step, and considering the age of many of the systems, we believe problems will be found.

One solution is for local municipalities to immediately require all of the 400 systems identified within 500 feet of the lake to be tested.(tncms-inline)cc155b4b-5787-4d4e-bd96-8583b39c3a39[1](/tncms-inline)

That would mean that the other municipalities around the lake — Bolton, Hague, Ticonderoga, Dresden, Putnam and Fort Ann — would need to conduct similar surveys to identify properties and their waste systems close to the lake.

The first step is to identify the scope of the problem.

We suspect this will not be popular among residents, but it is essential to keeping Lake George clean, its reputation pristine and the local tourist economy vibrant.

We acknowledge that once problems are found, residents will be on the hook for thousands of dollars to upgrade old and malfunctioning systems, but addressing this is necessary and long overdue and part of the upkeep for any home.

The Fund for Lake George is already working to obtain grants that might help residents who cannot afford the upgrades, so some relief could be possible.

The Fund for Lake George is recommending the town of Lake George put in place programs for inspecting septic systems, pumping out systems and monitoring algae. They also believe it should adopt a septic system transfer law similar to the one passed by the town of Queensbury recently.

We concur with all those recommendations, but warn they might not go far enough.

More drastic action may be needed, depending on the scope of the problem.

We believe a goal that all septic systems in the town of Lake George be inspected by June 1 is possible.

That would be a good start and a great example for the other lakeside communities.

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Post-Star editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star’s editorial board, which consists of Publisher Robert Forcey, Controller/Operations Director Brian Corcoran, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle and citizen representatives Carol Merchant, Eric Mondschein and Jackson LaSarso.

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