Foss: Sewer project worthy of support

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Categories: Opinion, Sara Foss

Carney’s Tavern uses a lot of water.

And all of that water goes into a 6,000-gallon holding tank, which fills up pretty fast. In busier, pre-pandemic times, the contents of the tank were pumped out and hauled away by truck once or twice a week. Over time, this adds up: It costs $400 to empty the tank.

“It’s a big headache,” Matt Finnigan, owner of the longstanding Ballston Lake establishment, told me.

Finnigan is a big supporter of the Ballston Lake sewer project, in large part because it would make Carney’s reliance on a holding tank a thing of the past, cutting his expenses and making it much more likely that he might one day purchase the restaurant building from his landlord.

“I love this community and I love living here,” Finnigan said. “Carney’s has been a part of this community for 38 years. I’d like to move forward and get with the times. To me, (the sewer project) seems like a no-brainer.”

Not everyone agrees.

On Monday, voters will revisit the sewer project, which was resoundingly approved in 2015 but has since hit a big snag.

The overall cost of the project has nearly doubled, and those who reside in the sewer district must give their blessing to the increased price tag, about $17.5 million.

A $5 million state grant will cover the increased costs, but that doesn’t mean the sewer system is free: Property owners will pay $873 a year, for 30 years, as well as a one-time connection fee ranging from $3,500 to $10,000.

Now some are balking at the expense, and questioning whether a sewer system is really needed in a community that has long relied on septic systems and holding tanks.

To some extent, this concern is understandable.

Increased costs and project delays will inspire skepticism, even when there’s a generous state grant to ensure homeowners aren’t hit with higher bills.

This is still a good and worthwhile project, though – one that represents a smart investment in Ballston Lake’s future.

A new sewer system will help clean up a lake that has been deemed “impaired” by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, while also improving the overall quality of life in the area.

Yes, there’s a cost to putting in a new sewer system.

But there’s also a cost to water pollution – a problem that has been linked to faulty septic systems – and the limitations on growth resulting from a lack of crucial infrastructure.

I know there are some who fear a sewer system will lead to a boom in development, destroying Ballston Lake’s rural character. That strikes me as unlikely. Far more likely is that people like Finnigan will find their hopes for the future frustrated if the sewer system isn’t built.

Mike Carota, who lives in the Buell Heights neighborhood, would like to build an addition on his house, but the leach field in his yard makes that impossible.

“The kids run around on it, it’s very green grass,” Carota said. “But you can’t do anything on it.”


Carota has three boys, ages six, four and 14 months.

He said he loves his neighborhood and his neighbors, and would like to keep living there, but that his growing family needs more room. Being able to connect to a sewer system – and get off the septic system – might make it possible to expand.

“We’d like to stay here longer term,” Carota said. “(The leach field) affects the usability of our lot.” If the sewer system isn’t built, “It’s going to drive people out and depress the neighborhood.”

Eligible to vote on Monday are about 490 property owners in Ballston Lake and the surrounding neighborhoods and about 88 property owners in Clifton Park.

There’s a reason the sewer project received such enthusiastic support five years ago.

It will help protect the lake and nearby streams from contamination, and open up new possibilities to those who live in the area, or wish to do so. It is, as Finnigan put it, a no-brainer – and I hope it passes.

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected] Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

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