Residents around Ballston Lake on Wednesday approved a $10.2 million plan to bring sewers to properties around the lake and the hamlet at its southern edge, where a number of septic systems have failed due to poor soil conditions.
“Tonight is a historic night in Ballston,” said town Councilman William Goslin. “We have made a decision that has been languishing for 40 or 50 years. People voted in favor of protecting the lake and in favor of economic development.”
The referendum, in which only property owners within the proposed sewer district could vote, passed by a 280-135 margin in the town of Ballston. It also passed by a 53-27 margin in Clifton Park, where the southeast corner of the lake is located.
Supporters of the project have argued over the past couple years that bringing sewers to the year-round homes and seasonal camps that surround the 3 1⁄2-mile-long lake would help address rising phosphorous levels that may be causing algae blooms and reduce bacterial runoff into the lake. The lake’s current conditions have led the state Department of Environmental Conservation to declare it an “impaired water body.”
“Everybody realized what we were saying is true. We have a lake in crisis,” said Goslin, the Town Board liaison for the project.
Paying for the sewers is expected to cost property owners an average of $907 per year, with financing for 30 years through the state’s Clean Water Resolving Loan Fund. Property owners will also face one-time costs to connect to the system, and many will need to buy grinder pumps for their homes.
“I really thought this was going to go through, but you never know until the numbers are in,” said Dr. Peter Herman, president of the Ballston Lake Improvement Association. “We got our voters out and (town Clean Water Committee Chairman) Drew (Hamelink) did an amazing job.”
Herman and Hamelink said they had some concerns after an anonymous flyer was distributed Tuesday that they claim exaggerated the costs.
“There was a core team that worked extremely hard to get the vote out,” Hamelink said.
While much of the attention was focused on protecting the quality of Ballston Lake’s waters, the new sewer district will also include the hamlet of Ballston Lake, at the southern tip of the lake. There, the Buell Heights residential neighborhood has a long history of septic system problems severe enough to create odors, and some businesses need to pump out their septic tanks more than once a week. Stevens Elementary School will also be connected to the sewers.
There is no timeline yet for construction. First, the towns of Ballston and Clifton Park must complete an agreement for management of the district, and then the proposed district must be submitted to the state Comptroller’s Office for its approval.
The sewers will be connected to the Saratoga County Sewer District treatment system at the northern end of the lake, connecting into a trunk line in the town of Malta.
Except for a handful of properties immediately outside Ballston Spa, no properties in Ballston are currently served by public sewers.
More from The Daily Gazette: