Polluted Stormwater: Bad News for Lake George

LGA Works to Protect Lake George from Polluted Stormwater

Polluted stormwater isn’t just a problem along roads and commercial areas — homes and driveways and other impervious surfaces can also cause problems. The LGA's Lake George Watershed Data Atlas (2016) determined that 8.2 percent of the watershed can be described as disturbed or developed - and a large amount of phosphorous, nitrogen, sediment and nutrients that enters the Lake as surface runoff likely comes from those areas.

Click here to see what the Lake George Association is doing to protect Lake George from the largest threat to the Lake's water quality: Polluted Stormwater.

What is polluted stormwater?

After a storm, water that falls on soil is able to infiltrate down into the ground, eventually finding its way into the groundwater to recharge the Lake or the local aquifer. Water that falls on impervious surfaces (such as roads, driveways, patios and parking lots) does not soak into the surfaces — instead it flows across those surfaces toward the low point: Lake George.

The water flows at increased speed across those surfaces, scouring oils, salt, and sediment carrying phosphorous or other chemicals. The flow carries the pollutants downward in the watershed and eventually deposits those pollutants into the Lake.

The photo at the top of this page shows the delta at the end of English Brook in 2015 -- much of it is sediment that was carried into the Lake because of problems upstream that were worsened by stormwater problems. The LGA has a number of projects on English Brook that have been completed or being permitted to address the issue.

Stormwater runoff

Stormwater carved away the sand and carried it into the Lake at Bixby Beach in Bolton Landing.

What are the effects of polluted stormwater?

  • Sediments can cloud water, affecting plants, fish, and other aquatic life;
  • Sediments can form deltas, impeding navigation and lake access, and providing ideal habitat for invasive species;
  • Excess nutrients can cause increases in algal growth, including Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs), which Lake George has never had;
  • Bacteria and pathogens can make water unsafe for drinking and swimming;
  • Debris - such as plastic bags - can suffocate or disable aquatic life such as ducks or turtles;
  • Household hazardous wastes such as pesticides, paints, or motor oil can poison aquatic life;
  • Road salt from the winter increases chloride levels in the lake.

All of these effects:

  • Lead to a loss in water quality;
  • Increase the cost to treat our water to make it safe for drinking;
  • Hurt the economy by impacting tourism and property values.

Volunteer to help the LGA monitor stream conditions or donate to Lake-Saving Projects to help curb stormwater runoff.