Chautauqua Lake getting new $16M sewer ring of protection

May 3, 2021

Chautauqua Lake is getting an addition to its developing sewer ring, as the push continues to protect water quality in one of Western New York's most famous tourist areas.

By the time construction bids are opened, contracts are awarded and the sewer line project is finally finished in the spring of 2023, it looks like this will be a $16 million project. Half is local money and half is state money, although that could change with Washington discussing a major infastructure bill.

Chautauqua County Executive P.J. Wendel said it's complicated, with grade-level changes leading to needs for pump stations and other equipment stations. The three-and-a-half-mile line will serve the Stow area and connect two existing lines along the lake.

"Over hill and dale, there's a couple of hills they have to traverse, pumping stations, grinder stations. So there's going to be a great deal of infrastructure involved," he said. "As you know, covering these civic projects never go quickly. There's always setbacks, weather-related issues, based on the construction season. It's going to take some time but, it's been a long time coming."

Wendel said testing shows a problem.

"We did do some sewer septic tank testing. We found there are some that were doing quite well, but there are also some that were malfunctioning and we just want to make sure that those malfunctioning sewers don't lead to any long-term health problems by being that close to the lake or leaching into the lake," he said.

Wendel said there have been algal blooms, which suggest a problem, although that could be from other issues besides just malfunctioning septic tanks.

"We're not saying raw sewage is going in, but we want to make sure that doesn't happen should a septic tank fail," he said, "but also, we want to make sure that those loads that are going into the lake by other means are mitigated as well, so we don't create or lead to other problems that are happening."

The long-term plan would be a sewer line completely surrounding the lake, making sure sewage doesn't flow in. Wendel said sewers and new water lines will open the way for economic development. Owners along the way will also be hiring plumbers to connect their homes and buildings to the new sewer line and help protect the lake.