Water quality win: Big drop in nitrates attributed to Village of Lake George wastewater treatment plant

April 2, 2024

LAKE GEORGE — Nitrate levels dropped dramatically last year in Lake George groundwater and select streams in the West Brook watershed, thanks to the new technology at the Village of Lake George Wastewater Treatment Plant that went online in February 2022. “It’s one of the best success stories since I’ve been here,” said Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky. 

The previous treatment plant, built in the 1930s, has kept Navitsky up at night for two decades. Because of it, he says, excessive amounts of nitrates (a nutrient that contributes to harmful algal blooms) entered West Brook, a gateway stream to Lake George, for 50 years.

In 2014, an initial water quality monitoring program conducted adjacent to the old facility revealed enough nitrates to advocate for a new treatment plant. By 2018, work on the future treatment plant technology was underway. That’s when Navitsky and Jim Sutherland, LGA Council of Science Advisers, expanded their regular monitoring of two wells near the treatment plant to include a well installed by the Town Highway Department on Gage Road, two seepage streams in the slopes along the  West Brook floodplain, and West Brook itself. 

Each year, findings are shared with the Village, and 2023 was no exception — except it’s the first time there were no state pollutant discharge elimination system (SPDES) permit violations from the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for excessive nitrate levels. The report also cites an impressive decrease of nitrates in seepage streams that flow into West Brook. 

2023 Water Quality Study chart

A striking drop in DEC state pollutant discharge elimination system (SPDES) permit violations for excessive nitrates levels in groundwater coincides with the new technology at the Village of Lake George Wastewater Treatment Plant that began operating in February 2022. 

“This is very good news,” said Navitsky. “I commend the Village and plant operator Tim Shudt for the incredible work they’ve done with the construction and operation of the new wastewater treatment plant. Results are dramatic and will have incredible benefits to the water quality of Lake George.”

The monitoring, however, did turn up elevated chloride concentrations in one of the wells near the plant. The source of the chloride is not identified and requires additional research.