It may finally be time for the town of Ballston to get public sewers, after decades of community growth, according to town officials.
A town committee is recommending the area around Ballston Lake get sewers to prevent continued deterioration of the lake’s water quality due to septic tank leakage at the homes and camps around it.
“The long and short of it is that the situation at the lake is deteriorating rapidly,” said town Councilman William Goslin, chairman of the Clear Water Committee.
The panel is recommending sewers be constructed around the lake and also in the Buell Heights neighborhood, at an estimated cost of about $10 million.
The Town Board will hold a special meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 11, at Town Hall to discuss the recommendations.
The meeting could be the springboard for hiring engineers to do more detailed studies and begin the search for outside funding. It’s too soon to predict a timeline beyond that.
“We’re looking for approval to proceed,” Goslin said.
Delaware Engineering of Albany has done some initial engineering work and preliminary cost estimates.
The committee’s principal recommendation is to bring public sewers to Ballston Lake, a long, narrow water body that is surrounded by year-round homes and seasonal camps. A corner of the lake is in Clifton Park, and residents there have also been involved in the committee.
The lake’s water quality is deteriorating, the committee found, due to septic system problems and to storm-water runoff. Failing septic systems have also been a problem in the Buell Heights area of the Ballston Lake hamlet, at the south end of the lake.
Separately, the committee is also recommending that an economic development committee be established to look at providing sewer service along Route 50 in Burnt Hills, where town water service already exists.
Installing sewers through Burnt Hills would bring the total project cost to $19 million, according to a preliminary engineering estimate.
Sewers in Burnt Hills could be connected either to the Saratoga County system through Ballston Lake or to sewers in the town of Glenville, which is also looking at providing service in the unsewered sections of Route 50 north of Mayfair. Goslin said both options are on the table.
Setting up a separate sewer district at the north end of town, in the Thomas Avenue and Carpenters’ Acres areas just outside Ballston Spa, would cost about $2.9 million, the Delaware Engineering study found.
In all cases, the cost would have to be borne by the sewer users, though the town intends to seek low-cost government loans to finance the work.
The recent discussions follow decades in which the town has had no sewer service despite suburban growth.
In 1969, town residents decided in a public referendum not to pay for the connection costs to join the county sewer district, which was then being formed.
Since 1969, however, Ballston has grown significantly. At the time, the town had about 6,700 residents; today, the official U.S. Census figure is about 9,800, but the actual population is believed to exceed 10,000.
Previous studies found the water quality of Ballston Lake to be in decline, with coliform bacteria contamination and high phosphorous levels. In 2012, the state Department of Environmental Conservation declared the lake an “impaired water body” under the Clean Water Act. The state Health Department has also issued drinking water advisories for those who draw water from the lake, advising the water be filtered.
The committee said there’s a concern that state agencies could mandate sewers be built to improve water conditions, if the town doesn’t act on its own.
“The key is that eventually something will have to be done, so now is the time to do it,” Goslin said.
Richard Doyle, chairman of an engineering subcommittee, said the proposal for Ballston Lake would use a low-pressure collection system to bring wastewater to the north end of the lake. From there, it would be pumped to a large pumping station near Lake Road, where it would enter the county sewage collection system.
Providing sewers around Ballston Lake and to Buell Heights would cost about $723 per customer per year, according to Delaware Engineering’s preliminary estimate.
“We’re talking a lot of money,” Doyle acknowledged. “Putting in sewers is always expensive.”