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Town reflects on lake sanitation

Vacuum sewer system proposed for lakeside residents

Aerial drawings were created to illustrate characteristics of the proposed vacuum-sewer system that would encompass Cazenovia Lake. Representatives from AIRVAC estimate the project would cost about $4.6 million, and drastically improve the lake’s water quality.

Aerial drawings were created to illustrate characteristics of the proposed vacuum-sewer system that would encompass Cazenovia Lake. Representatives from AIRVAC estimate the project would cost about $4.6 million, and drastically improve the lake’s water quality.

— With unsafe amounts of sewage water seeping into Cazenovia Lake, town administrators have begun to examine ways to improve sanitation for lake residents.

One option, which was presented at a joint town and village meeting on Oct. 24, is the installation of vacuum sewer systems for residences near the water.

At the joint meeting, President of the New York State Federation of Lakes Jim Cunningham presented data from samples of lake water.

Of water 22 samples, eight had levels of E. coli greater than 500 colony-forming units per 100ml sample. State regulation for safe freshwater swimming is 235 cfu, or below, of E. coli per 100ml sample. The lake’s control sample for E. coli was 10 cfu, which was taken in the middle of the lake.

Cunningham also tested the lake for the optical brighteners that are found in household laundry detergents. Tests showed high amounts of optical brighteners at locations that also had spikes in E. coli and fecal coliform levels. This correlation confirmed that significant amounts of human-produced wastewater are entering the lake.

Cunningham said that Cazenovia Lake’s amount of effluent is typical of a lake with septic systems installed in poor soil conditions and high population densities near the water.

Cunningham, who wrote a chapter regarding wastewater treatment systems around lakes in the book “Diet for Small Lakes,” supports the installation of vacuum sewers.

“Numerous lake communities are using vacuum sewers. They have been in New York state for nearly 30 years, so they are not new.” Cunningham said. “Because they pull a constant vacuum they typically do not leak if a line breaks. If they fail they tend to suck in water, whereas gravity sewers can leak out and it is very difficult to determine when they are leaking out. The operator of a vacuum system can see if a line has broken and isolate the area by closing valves in the system to find the leak quite quickly.”

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