Steve Seaboyer: Leading The Way to a Cleaner Lake George On Rockhurst Peninsula

For the past decade, Steve, along with his Rockhurst neighbor and friend Tom Sargent, has rallied his neighbors and worked closely with town officials and Lake protection organizations to develop a plan and build support for a neighborhood sewer system that will collect wastewater from all 52 homes and pump it off the peninsula to a leach field a quarter mile away from the Lake.

Now, with $6 million in New York State funding in hand, it’s looking like the Rockhurst sewer system will soon become a reality.

Steve is a Lake Protector.

Harboring Harmful Algal Blooms 

The Rockhurst peninsula juts into the east side of Lake George between Cleverdale and Pilot Knob, straddling the waters of Sandy and Warner bays. It’s a tight-knit community in an incredibly tight space – and that’s the root of the problem. Fifty-two homes and a small marina are squeezed onto the picturesque but painfully narrow strip of land, 0.4 miles long and never wider than 250 feet. A handful of properties are 90 feet wide, most are only 30 or 60. Each has its own septic system wedged somewhere on the property, with wastewater discharging to leach fields much closer than the mandated 100-foot separation from the Lake. It’s a neighborhood created decades ago that would never pass muster today.

An adult man wearing a blue t-shirt sitting on a dock with two small children standing in front of him - a boy wearing a pale-yellow long sleeve shirt and pink shorts and a blonde girl with her hands under her chin wearing a light blue shirt with rainbows. Next to the trio stands another white man, wearing a green t-shirt and light blue shorts with anchors. He is holding in his arms a toddler that is wearing a white, blue, and red swimming outfit. A lake and mountains are in the background

Steve Seaboyer (right) and Tom Sargent have led the way to improve wastewater treatment on Rockhurst peninsula with their grandchildren’s future in mind.

The waters surrounding Rockhurst have been identified by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Lake George Association’s science and technical team as a priority for protection due to a variety of water quality threats, including wastewater contamination and polluted stormwater runoff from the dense development in the area. Data from The Jefferson Project environmental research collaboration of IBM, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the Lake George Association shows that nutrient levels in Warner Bay, to the southeast of Rockhurst, are nearly double the Lake average and, not surprisingly, the bay has higher than average algae growth, as well. Most alarming, both Warner Bay and Sandy Bay have been the scene of documented harmful agal blooms (HABs) in recent years.

Steve and Tom know well the connection between wastewater and algae-feeding nutrients, and they’ve been seeking solutions for Rockhurst’s wastewater problems since well before the more recent data – and HABs – discoveries.

A Peninsula of Lake Protectors

Steve and Debby, a retired teacher, purchased their late 1950s-era ranch home on Rockhurst in 2000. In 2009, in conjunction with a renovation to the home’s interior, the Seaboyers added a number of exterior Lake-protection enhancements, including directing stormwater from their rain gutters to newly planted rain gardens and replacing the home’s original septic system with a high-efficiency enhanced treatment unit.

While this was the best option the Seaboyers could identify at the time for minimizing wastewater impacts to the Lake, Steve started thinking there must be an even more protective and, ideally, neighborhood-wide solution. This need was reinforced every time he stood on his dock and looked into the water. The clarity was no longer as great as a decade earlier.

 “The fact is,” Steve says, “while the wastewater from our home is being cleaned more thoroughly, it’s still being discharged on our property and in very close proximity to the Lake. And that’s the case with all of our neighbors.”

A possible solution began to crystalize during a 2012 conversation between Steve and Tom. “Tom and I stood there talking and we said, ‘What we really need to do to eliminate any threat from septic contamination from Rockhurst properties is get rid of the septic water by moving it off the point. If we really want to clean this up, we should pump it off the peninsula.’”

“I think it’s part of our legacy as property owners to try to do the right thing for the Lake. We’re all very fortunate to be living here.”

— Steve Seaboyer

This soon led to discussions with Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky and, over the next several years, the commissioning of detailed engineering plans, paid for by The FUND for Lake George (now merged with the LGA) which identified a possible clear path forward using an effluent collection sewer. Each property would upgrade its on-site treatment tank before sending the treated water off the peninsula to a leach field about a quarter mile from the Lake.

With plan in hand, Steve and Tom began meeting with their neighbors to explain the proposed project and its many benefits – protecting water quality, preserving property values, low maintenance costs, and, potentially, the ability to further improve their properties due to the new wastewater protections. Many meetings later, Steve was thrilled to learn that more than 80% of the Rockhurst neighbors expressed support for further investigation of a new sewer district and a willingness to help pay for it.

The project gained even greater momentum late in 2021 when Queensbury was awarded a $6-million Water Quality Improvement Project Grant from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to help offset the costs. Final planning and budgeting are now taking place with a goal of soon bringing the proposed sewer district to a formal vote of Rockhurst residents.

“Frankly, I think the entire population of Rockhurst is worthy of Lake Protector status,” Steve says.

Become a Lake Protector

Steve’s and Tom’s commitment to educate, engage and empower their neighbors to take action on their own properties to protect Lake George is exactly what the LGA is working to foster through our new Lake Protector initiative.

Property owners who register will receive a Personal Protection Plan identifying the most serious water quality threats in their area of the Lake and the actions they can take on their property to address them. Steve encourages everyone on the Lake to join in.

“I think it’s part of our legacy as property owners to try to do the right thing for the Lake,” he says. “We’re all very fortunate to be living here.”