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Lake George Beach Report

In 2016, elevated bacteria levels in the southern end of Lake George resulted in several closures of Million Dollar Beach. DEC initiated an extensive investigation to determine the sources of bacteria impacting the beach. DEC's investigation to protect the health and safety of beachgoers included the release of Lake George Beach Pollution Source Investigation Report (PDF, 3.49 MB) in 2017. 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 bacteria contamination, including E.coli.

The investigation continued in 2017 as a cooperative effort between state and local government and private organizations. Partners in the effort included the New York State Department of Health, village of Lake George, town of lake George, Lake George Association, Lake Champlain/Lake George Regional Planning Board, Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District, Lake George Waterkeeper, and Lake George Park Commission. Continued investigation efforts were summarized in the 2018 Lake George Beach Pollution Investigation Report Update (PDF, 2.7 MB)

Summary of Investigation and Results

When the high bacteria levels were discovered, DEC developed a sampling plan that consisted of extensive sampling for E.coli at multiple locations along the beach shoreline and the two tributaries that enter the lake adjacent to the beach. Special testing was done on samples with high E.coli concentrations to help determine the sources of bacteria.

Results of this sampling effort revealed the highest levels of E.coli, along with the presence of human bacteria, near the confluence of East Brook. These findings narrowed the focus of the investigation to nearby storm and sanitary sewer systems.

The following work to identify and eliminate sources of human bacteria in the waters of Lake George in and around the beach has been conducted or is underway:

  • DEC video-inspected the condition of all sanitary and stormwater lines that service Lake George Beach State Park, Lake George Battleground, and Lake George Battlefield to ensure that all DEC-owned sewer lines and connections are intact.
  • DEC staff and staff from the Village of Lake George, Town of Lake George, Lake George Association, Lake Champlain/Lake George Regional Planning Board, Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District, Lake George Waterkeeper, and Lake George Park Commission dye tested, smoke tested, and camera inspected the sanitary sewer infrastructure in the vicinity of the beach to verify the integrity of the system and identify any leaks or sections of pipe that needed replacement. The Town of Lake George performed additional testing and inspection of the Caldwell Sewer District sanitary collection system. Camera inspections revealed on break in the sewer main. the section was repaired immediately after discovery. Smoke testing revealed several issues with lateral connection to private residences and all connections were replaced.
  • Local partners performed camera inspections of stormwater structures and pipes adjacent to the beach area to determine if there are any illicit connections to between the stormwater and sanitary sewer systems. No illicit connections were detected, although the inspection effort identified a number of stormwater structures in need of regular maintenance.
  • DEC staff inspected tour boats that operate within Lake George Village to verify proper disposal of sanitary wastewater. No issues were identified during the inspections.

Next Steps

  • DEC will continue to take water samples to ensure the water is safe for beach users.
  • DEC will continue to rake and clean the beach daily to remove garbage, debris, bird droppings, and other sources of pathogens.
  • DEC will continue to work with its local partners on pollution source investigation in the watershed areas of lake George near Million Dollar Beach. Staff will provide technical support and assistance to its local partners in their continued efforts to identify and eliminate local sources of bacterial pollution that could enter Lake George.
  • The Town of Lake George will continue their camera investigation of the Caldwell Sewer District. The town was awarded a $343,000 Clean Water Infrastructure Act grant, a $100,000 engineering planning grant, and a $120,000 Water Quality Improvement Project Grant through DEC and the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation to assist with repairing the collection system.
  • The Village of Lake George will conduct additional camera investigation on its portion of the sewer infrastructure.