FUND Unveils Comprehensive Safe Septic System Program Dedicated to Solving One of the Most Serious Threats to Lake George Water Quality

July 8, 2020

This announcement was published prior to the merger of the LGA with The FUND for Lake George in June 2021.

Program Features No-Interest/Low-Interest Loans for System Upgrades from Adirondack Trust and Glens Falls National Bank

Expanding on its leading role in protecting Lake George from failing and aging septic and wastewater treatment systems, The FUND for Lake George today unveiled a new basinwide program dedicated to equipping and empowering property owners to ensure every private septic system in the basin is performing as needed to keep the Lake clean and healthy.

The Safe Septic System Program features:

  • A no-interest/low-interest loan program for septic system replacements in the Lake George basin in partnership with Adirondack Trust Company and Glens Falls National Bank and Trust Company;
  • The website, an online guide to help homeowners ensure their systems are not harming the Lake.

“One of the greatest threats to Lake George’s legendary water quality is the increasing levels of nutrients, especially phosphorus and nitrogen escaping from failing and aging septic systems and treatment plants,” said Eric Siy, executive director of The FUND for Lake George. “The increased nutrients pose a risk for the development of harmful algal blooms (HABs) like those that have devastated lake ecologies and economies across New York State and the country.”

“Fortunately, Lake George property owners have it in their power to stop and reverse this intensifying threat. Every system counts, and The FUND’s new program will empower property owners to do their part, from fixing to financing, in keeping their septic systems safe and our Lake protected.”

Central to this comprehensive program is the new no-interest/low-interest loan program for septic system replacements.

Glens Falls National Bank & Trust Company and Adirondack Trust Company have each developed special financing programs for qualified property owners whose septic systems need to be replaced. The lifespan of a typical septic system is 30-40 years, and replacement costs can range from $17,000-$30,000, depending on system specifications, size requirements, and site conditions.

Adirondack Trust is offering no-interest loans for qualifying property owners in certain areas of the Southern Basin. For more information, please call Matthew Harrison, vice president of residential lending, at (518) 584-5844, ext. 2222.

Glens Falls National is offering an array of low-interest loans to qualifying property owners throughout the entire Basin. For more information, please call Helen Tobias, branch manager of the Lake George office, at (518) 668-5461.

“People take on a very special responsibility when owning a septic system on Lake George,” said William Creighton, vice chairman of The FUND’s Board of Trustees, who worked closely with the banks in establishing the loan program. “At the same time, The FUND recognizes that replacement costs can be an obstacle to fulfilling this responsibility, particularly for families whose properties have been handed down from generation-to-generation. We are tremendously grateful that these community-focused banks recognize this challenge — and the importance of a healthy Lake George to our regional economy — and have stepped up with the future of our Lake in mind.”

Charles V. Wait, Jr., president and CEO of Adirondack Trust Company, said, “We believe this is a project that reinforces one of our core beliefs: taking care of our local communities. We are pleased that we can provide a lending option that will help local homeowners and small businesses improve their standard of living, while preserving the ‘Queen of American Lakes’ for generations to come. It is this type of innovative partnership that provides quality of life and economic benefits for all, and we are very proud to be part of this initiative.”

Marc Yrsha, senior vice president of Glens Falls National Bank and Trust Company, said, “Glens Falls National Bank and Trust Company is pleased to participate with The FUND for Lake George to provide low interest financing options to property owners for septic and water improvement systems. Lake George is a vital part of our local economy and we want to help residents maintain or update their systems to be environmentally sound and protect the lake.”

In addition to the loan program, The FUND’s new Safe Septic System website provides easy-to-understand, step-by-step guidance for property owners to determine if their system is operating safely and how to properly maintain or replace it. Included are overviews of how various types of septic systems work, how to choose the right system for your property, and how to select qualified engineers and contractors.

The need for the loan assistance and educational materials for septic system owners came to the forefront last year with the findings from a major assessment of near-shore systems in the Town of Lake George, conducted in coordination with the Town by The FUND’s Lake George Waterkeeper program, with funding from a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation grant.

The assessment covered more than 400 septic systems that are within 500 feet of the Lake and 100 feet of tributary streams and found that:

  • Two-thirds of the systems were either near or past their estimated life expectancy or there was no information available on the age;
  • Nearly one out of five systems were undersized for the required volume, which could result in premature system failure;
  • More than half of the systems reviewed had no record of maintenance or pump-out, and/or have never been pumped out;
  • One in five systems utilize drywells that have reduced treatment efficiencies and have a greater potential for releasing pollutants into groundwater.

These findings closely mirrored a prior Waterkeeper assessment of septic systems on Dunhams Bay in the Town of Queensbury, and are very likely to reflect system conditions in communities throughout the Lake’s basin.

“Unfortunately, septic systems can be a classic example of ‘out of sight, out of mind,’” said Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky. “Many people simply don’t think about their system until it causes a problem in their home. Overlooked is what’s happening underground and how it might be impacting the Lake and its tributaries. We’re sure people want to do the right thing when it comes to maintaining their systems and protecting the Lake, and we’re committed to doing everything we can to help them.”

“The FUND for Lake George is proud to champion this pace-setting portfolio of septic improvement programs and financing partnerships for the Queen of American Lakes,” said Jeff Killeen, chairman of The FUND’s Board of Trustees. “Through science-guided programming, innovative partnerships, and direct investments, we are making a meaningful difference in addressing one of the greatest threats to the future of our environment and economy, and leading the way on the enduring protection of Lake George.”

Community Kudos for The Safe Septic System Program

Lake George lovers from all walks of life are praising The Safe Septic System Program for its anticipated benefits to the ecology and economy of the region:

Daniel Davies, president of Davies ~ Davies & Associates Real Estate LLC and a member of The FUND’s Council of Business Advisors, said: “The values of homes and businesses along Lake George are inextricably linked to the quality of the water outside their doors. With outdated and failing septic systems being among the greatest threats to water quality, this new program from The FUND for Lake George will be an invaluable asset for property owners who want to do the right thing and protect the Lake and their properties for the long term.”

Dennis Dickinson, supervisor of the Town of Lake George, said: “I’m excited for the residents of our town and communities up and down the Lake. Replacing a septic system can be complicated and costly, but through this partnership between The FUND for Lake George, Glens Falls National and Adirondack Trust, people now have access to all the information they need to make the right decision about their system, and the financial assistance to help them afford it. As usual, The FUND has brought both the science and the solution to this issue.”

Barbara Simms, a Queensbury resident who was instrumental in the formation of the Dunhams Bay Wastewater District in 2014, said: “Dunhams Bay has seen significant reductions in algae growth since the Dunham’s Bay Association began working with The FUND for Lake George on a septic system replacement initiative in our area of the Lake. Twenty systems have been replaced on the Bay over the past five years, and I’m excited to see the improvements that will happen throughout the Basin as property owners participate in The Safe Septic System Program.”

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