Unified Lake Sewer District Takes First Step

CELORON – The ecologically and economically based movement to unite Chautauqua Lake under one sewer district has begun.

The South and Center Sewer District discussed a unified lake sewer district at its second of three triannual meetings held recently.

According to Randy Peterson, South and Center Sewer District director, the district has already funded a feasibility study to determine the practicality of laying pipe down around portions of the lake which are not sewered – approximately Midway State Park to Hartfield – and pumping that waste to the South and Center treatment facility, along with the waste which is currently processed by the North Chautauqua Lake Sewer District and the Chautauqua Institution Sewer District.

“The South and Center Sewer District just completed a small piece of the pie (in creating a single lake-area sewer district),” said Peterson. “We want to be able to put a price tag just on the pipe work that would be necessary, so South and Center proposed to pick up the cost of the study to transfer sewage down from Mayville and the Chautauqua Institution down to the South and Center Sewer District. Pumping that sewage down to us might not only be more economically feasible, but it would also eliminate two additional discharge points in the lake.”

The catalyst to unite the lake area under one sewer district mostly stems from the need to become compliant with new EPA standards to regulate the total maximum daily load of nutrients, specifically phosphates, into the lake.

“The state is pushing certain issues with different districts to take care of the phosphates,” said Peterson. “The TMDL has been established, and now there is a movement to implement it. The (EPA) is working on a time frame, but regardless, changes are going to need to be made, and some of those changes could potentially be very drastic. … It just makes more sense to consolidate and move forward. It would require increasing the (South and Center) plant capacity, but we’re studying that right now. There’s a lot of ancillary stuff that we need to get through, but the main issue is whether the two other main utility districts want to sign on to this project. If the answer is no, it’s all a moot point.”

County Executive Greg Edwards has been working with the North Chautauqua Lake Sewer District, and said that consolidation into one sewer district would be the most pragmatic thing to do.

“As county executive, I work closely with both (North County and Chautauqua Institution) sewer districts,” said Edwards.

“I’m familiar with their operations and the work they do,” he continued. “I was aware the EPA was instituting some new and additional restrictions through the DEC with regard to the TMDL of phosphates in Chautauqua Lake. … To conform, significant investments were going to be required by all three of the semi-municipal districts, as well as the stand-alone operations that service the Chautauqua Estates property and the Crosswinds property, as well as other locations around the lake. With the requirement of the significant investment of millions of dollars into each of these plants, it was my desire to see what the potential was for combining these districts to improve the service, reduce the amount of phosphates going into Chautauqua Lake, open the door for private dwellings to be added to municipal service and do so for less dollars than it would cost to continue the plants as stand-alone entities.”

Edwards has reviewed the feasibility study, and said the information provided suggests that a single lake area sewer district can beneficial both economically and ecologically.

“The results of the survey shows that it can be done, and that it can also be cost-effective,” said Edwards. “The next step is to analyze the study further. The goal is to design a means to have public sewers all around the lake, to improve the health of the lake, and to give people who are not currently on public sewer systems the opportunity to hook-up. We want to improve the overall quality of life in Chautauqua County, and do so for the best economical value. This is one of the steps to get there.”

Edwards said that there are two tiers with regard to enforcing the new TMDL for the lake. The first tier needs to be completed by the end of 2014, and the second before 2018.

“It’s anticipated that it will be a significant expense to comply with the second tier,” said Edwards. “Part of our analysis is the economic benefit of doing this together – merging our operations, rather than going alone and needing to have the individual operations be paid for by the rate payers.”

The next meeting of the South and Central Sewer District will occur in August, unless an emergency meeting is called first.