A $24 million sewer extension project around Chautauqua Lake is moving forward.
During this week’s county planning board meeting, council members unanimously approved plans for the Phase II sewer expansion, which will now go to county lawmakers for further consideration. and eventual final approval.
South and Center Chautauqua Lake Sewer District Manager Tom Walsh discussed the Phase II expansion at the planning board meeting. This phase runs from Stow, along Route 394, to Prendergast Road. “By completing Phase II, we will completely drain the west side of Chautauqua Lake,” he said.
Walsh explained that this extension would drain approximately 520 plots, of which approximately 350 are currently developed. “Phase II is primarily being installed and implemented due to private septic systems not meeting standards and reaching the end of their useful life,” he said.
The $24 million project is broken down into $16 million from state and federal funds, and $8 million from a loan, which would be paid for by users. He said the annual cost for each resident will not exceed $1,000, according to the state comptroller. Of that $1,000 paid per user, $350 would go to treatment and maintenance, and $650 would go to capital costs. The loan is for 30 years, interest free.
The $1,000 does not include installation or sewer connection. Walsh explained that each user will be required by law to no longer use their septic system and will have to connect to the public sewer. Every septic system must either be removed or filled, so that it is no longer viable.
Walsh said each homeowner is responsible for installing the grinder pump. The cost can vary greatly depending on where it is installed. “It’s hard to project right now, but I’d say between $2,500 and $5,000,” he said.
This price can go up quickly. He noted that an owner during Phase I wanted the macerator pump placed in a different location than the engineer suggested, but it would cost $20,000.
There are financial aid programs, but Walsh said these are income-based programs and no one he knows has applied or is looking to apply.
The county provides a list of approved contractors, but residents are not required to use any of the listed contractors. However, the person they hire must understand the local laws, have the required insurance, and be familiar with this type of work.
Commercial businesses are billed differently. Instead of the $1,000 flat rate, Walsh said they would be charged based on water usage.
According to Walsh, the vast majority of owners are in favor of the project, although a small number oppose it. A resident paid $12,000 10 years ago for a newly installed septic system and he will no longer be able to use it. “I said to him, look at it this way – the neighbors on both sides of you have aging septic systems and you and your family are probably swimming in their sewage,” says Walsh.
Walsh said they have studied the sewage discharges extensively. He said the average home discharges 200 gallons a day. Every year, that’s over 70,000 gallons a year. There are 1,200 homes on Chautauqua Lake that use the septic system and discharge 90 million gallons of sewage directly into the Chautauqua Lake watershed. “I’m not saying the lake, I’m very careful. I say the watershed, he added.
Phase I started in September. Walsh said it would eliminate about 28 million gallons of waste. Phase II is expected to remove an additional 28 million gallons. “Is this the whole Chautauqua Lake problem and the phosphorus and all the other problems? It’s not, but it’s definitely a problem we can fix.” he said.
After final approval and construction, the owners will have a public sewer but no public water, which many people want. “As we pass through these areas there are a lot of requests for water and I tell them to talk to their local councils,” says Walsh.