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For Release: Wednesday, June 21, 2017

DEC Announces Closure of Lake George "Million Dollar" Beach During Investigation of Contamination Sources

State Partnering with Town of Lake George, Village of Lake George, Lake George Park Commission, Lake Champlain/Lake George Regional Planning Board, Lake George Association, and Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District to Protect Public Health and Track Down and Eliminate Source of E. Coli

Joint State - Local Investigation Over Next 4 Days ‎Will Aggressively Investigate Source

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today that it is closing Lake George (aka "Million Dollar") Beach to swimming through Friday, June 23, due to E.coli counts that exceed New York State Department of Health (DOH) guidelines. DEC will close the beach while the agency, working cooperatively with the village of Lake George, town of Lake George, Lake George Park Commission, Lake Champlain/Lake George Regional Planning Board, Lake George Association, and Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District, to aggressively investigate potential sources of E.coli and work to eliminate the contamination.

"DEC is committed to finding and eliminating the bacteria causing this contamination and ensuring visitors to Lake George's Million Dollar Beach have clean water to swim in," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "Our scientists and engineers are tracking down every possible source of contamination. We're also working closely with our state, local and county partners to make sure the beach is a safe and enjoyable spot to visit this summer."

Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ron Conover said, "Warren County joins with the city and town and DEC to investigate the source of this contamination. Our cooperative efforts will get to the bottom of this and lead us to measures to fix this problem as soon as possible."

Town of Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson said, "This is a difficult problem with a lot of moving parts that has our full attention. We are actively working with the Village of Lake George, State officials and local private environmental groups to explore all options to correct the problem as quickly as possible."

Village of Lake George Mayor Robert Blais said, "This is an unprecedented occurrence on our lake that demands a swift response. The Village of Lake George has committed all available staff and resources and is working closely with DEC to resolve the problem and protect our beautiful lake."

Lake George Association (LGA) Executive Director C. Walter Lender said, "As part of our century-long commitment to protect Lake George water, the LGA is working very closely with the state agencies and municipalities to track down the source causing these readings. It is critical for residents and visitors to feel comfortable swimming and boating in the Lake, and we will do whatever we can to ensure this problem stops, once the source has been identified."

Results from water samples taken on June 18 showed colonies of E.coli that exceeded the DOH's 235 colonies of E.coli per 100 ml risk level. Recent excessive rains may have contributed to the presence of E. coli. Although the results from the most recent sampling of the swimming area were below Department of Health guidelines, out of an abundance of caution, DEC will delay reopening the swimming area while multiple agencies launch aggressive track down efforts.

DEC met yesterday with representatives from the town of Lake George, village of Lake George, Lake George Park Commission, Lake Champlain/Lake George Regional Planning Board, Lake George Association, and Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District to discuss a plan of action to investigate the source of bacteria. DEC will reconvene the partners on Friday to evaluate the findings of the investigation and determine next steps.

DEC is conducting a comprehensive investigation, including extensive, daily water sampling to track down and eliminate the source of bacteria. The agency is deploying its Microbial Source Trackdown and Tributary Monitoring teams to the area and DEC's investigation will include:

  • Continuing daily water quality monitoring to identity any potential patterns and sources, and ensure public health and safety in the swimming area when it is reopened.
  • Increasing the number of sampling locations in order to identify potential source areas or "hot spots." The sampling will include multiple locations along the shoreline and in both East and West brooks.
  • Visually inspecting the banks of East and West brooks for signs of potential illicit discharges such as discoloration, debris, odors, algae, and discharges from storm sewer outfalls during dry weather.
  • Implementing a wet weather study to determine the effect of rain events on bacteria levels. This study includes an intensive sampling program better understand E.coli levels before, during, and after wet weather events.
  • Installing a rain gauge at the beach to correlate rainfall amounts to the sampling results.
  • Special testing on samples with high E.coli levels to help determine if the source of the bacteria is from humans, domestic animals, or wildlife. Preliminary findings show positive results for human bacteria and negative results for avian bacteria such as ducks, gulls, and geese. Additional markers are being tested, such as dogs.
  • Continuing the current level of beach cleaning and raking to remove debris and other sources of pathogens.
  • Installing prisms to deter the presence of waterfowl on the beach and near the swimming area during the day.
  • Installing signage to reduce the feeding of waterfowl.
  • Reviewing storm sewer outfall maps compiled for the town, village, and county along West Brook to enable visual inspection and sampling of any discharge to the tributaries. Any illicit discharges will be addressed.

In addition, DEC and local and county partners are working together and:

  • Inspecting nearby storm and sanitary sewers for leaks or illicit connections through video inspections and dye testing. This includes conducting video inspections of sewers along Cedar Lane, Beatty Lane, and Beach Road and dye testing residential properties in the Cedar Lane/Beatty Lane area.
  • Investigating a stormwater vault near Dog Beach that reportedly had elevated bacteria levels and will video-inspect the associated piping to determine if there are any illicit connections. The Lake George Park Commission offices were dye tested and found no illicit discharges.

Additional information and updates will be ‎shared with the public as they become available on DEC's website.

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.

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