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For Release: Friday, May 5, 2017

DEC Announces Million Dollar Beach to Open For 2017 Season

Opening Follows State Investigation that Identifies Likely Causes of 2016 Beach Closures and Prompted Infrastructure Repairs

DEC to Continue Extensive Monitoring During this Season to Protect Health and Safety of Beachgoers

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today that Lake George's Million Dollar Beach will safely open for the 2017 season after the State's comprehensive investigation into the cause of unsafe levels of bacterial contamination last summer. DEC's investigation to protect the health and safety of beachgoers includes the release of the Lake George Beach Pollution Source Investigation Report. The report identifies nearby storm and sanitary sewer systems, possible unlawful and not yet identified discharges of wastewater to storm sewer systems, and two overflows from town of Lake George wastewater sewer systems as potential sources of human bacterial contamination, including E.coli. At the state's direction, the town is conducting an evaluation of its sanitary sewer system and DEC will continue extensive monitoring of the beaches over the 2017 season.

"DEC is committed to doing everything within our power to ensure that visitors to Lake George beaches have clean water to swim in," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "Our scientists and investigators tracked all possible sources of contamination and identified the likely causes. New York stands ready to provide expertise and resources to the town of Lake George to address water infrastructure issues and is working with our partners at the Department of Health and the town of Lake George to make sure Million Dollar Beach is a safe and enjoyable spot to visit this summer."

The report includes all sample results released last summer during the closure and details DEC's in-depth technical investigation into potential sources of bacteria. The report includes the results of its extensive water sampling program, as well as measures that DEC water quality experts, the town of Lake George, and the Lake George Association (LGA) have identified to prevent future contamination of the lake and beach. The beach was immediately closed in 2016 due to water samples exceeding state Department of Health (DOH) guidelines for levels of bacteria for bathing beaches. DEC reopened the beach last summer as soon as test results were once again below acceptable levels.

"As part of the state's continued efforts to ensure water quality, the Department of Health worked with the Department of Environmental Conservation to analyze the water at Million Dollar Beach and help address any potential concerns about using the beach," said New York State Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker. "The Department of Health remains committed to supporting our partners in government to ensure Million Dollar Beach is safe for recreational use."

As part of its full investigation, DEC conducted extensive sampling at multiple locations along the beach shoreline and in East and West brooks, the tributaries that enter the lake adjacent to the beach. DEC also performed video inspections to assess the condition of all wastewater and storm water pipes that service Lake George Beach State Park, Lake George Battleground, and Lake George Battlefield. All pipes and connections were intact. The highest levels of E.coli, along with the presence of human-borne E.coli, were found in samples taken near the mouth of East Brook. These findings narrowed the focus of the investigation to nearby storm and sanitary sewer systems.

DEC issued a Notice of Violation to the town of Lake George in response to two wastewater sewer overflows. The town undertook dye testing that demonstrated that the sanitary systems were intact. The town will conduct additional testing, video-inspect its wastewater sewer collection system, and perform any needed maintenance or repairs. The town has slip-lined a portion of its wastewater sewer system along Beach Road to limit leaks.

DEC is releasing these findings to inform the public in advance of the upcoming bathing season. DEC will open Lake George Beach this summer and will continue to take water samples to ensure the water is safe for beach users. Water sampling will also be conducted to determine if there is a correlation between wet weather and high bacteria levels. If so, a wet weather beach advisory and/or closure protocol could be enacted. DEC will continue to rake and clean the beach daily to remove garbage, debris, bird droppings, and other sources of pathogens and will undertake measures to limit the presence of waterfowl. These measures may include harassment tactics, public education to reduce feeding of waterfowl, installation of enclosed garbage cans, and waterfowl population reduction.

Earlier this year, Governor Cuomo announced the Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017 to invest a record $2.5 billion in critical water infrastructure across New York State. This historic investment in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, combined with a full funded $300 million Environmental Protection Fund will be available to the communities in and around Lake George to safeguard this important water resource.

E.coli is a type of bacteria commonly found in the intestines of birds and mammals. Most E.coli are not harmful to human health. However, E.coli is a reliable indicator of public health risks due to potentially pathogenic bacteria at freshwater beaches.

The full report may be viewed and downloaded at DEC's website.

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