Faulty Septic Systems Threaten Black Lake

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Dozens of year-round homes and seasonal camps dot the Black Lake shoreline. 

Many have faulty septic systems that could be leaking into the water and helping fuel invasive weed species.

"It's fertilizing it. The bigger concern is the blue-green algae blooms that we've seen the last two summers in the lake. They can be very toxic," said Dawn Howard, St. Lawrence County Soil and Water District director.                                  

The St. Lawrence County Planning Office and the Soil and Water Conservation District are teaming up to identify problem areas in the towns of Macomb and Morristown and help low and moderate income property owners repair or replace the septic systems.

"Eleven percent of the 368 households I think were surveyed identified that they had a problem with their septic system, so the number can be high. That's just only in Morristown. That survey did not cover Macomb," said Matilda Larson of the county Planning Office.

The county hopes to be able to use a $400,000 grant to help offset the costs of the septic repairs.

The phosphate generated by waste from septic systems damages the water quality of the lake and helps feed weeds.

But county officials say many may be wary of stepping forward to admit a septic problem because they think they will be penalized.

Not so in this case.

"We want to fix the situation, so we understand that confidentiality is very important," said Larson.

Residents around Black Lake are being asked to fill out a confidential survey by December 13, which will be submitted with the county's grant application by a December 20 deadline.

If the program receives state funding, septic repair construction for income eligible households could begin as soon as next summer.

Thursday, August 21, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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