Home septic systems have proven ineffective for cleaning wastewater that enters Cazenovia Lake. The highest levels of phosphorus, nitrogen and E. coli are typically found near the shore, Phosphorus is the primary nutrient that enhances all aquatic plant growth in lakes.
Cindy Schicho, a homeowner in a proposed sewer district, said she doesn’t think installing a vacuum sewer system around the lake is the best option.
“The thing that upset me the most is that it’s an idea that costs a ton of money,” Schicho said.
Having invested approximately $20,000 to update her property’s septic system in 2003, Schicho said the vacuum sewer proposal tells her that “the system they put in place, where they were checking everybody’s septic [is either not working], or that those [residents] who don’t want to spend $20,000 [on updating their septic system] would like everybody to chip in, so they don’t have to worry about it.”
According to Jim Cunningham, president of the New York State Federation of Lakes, septic systems themselves are not a good match for Cazenovia Lake.
Cunninghman said broken septic systems could contribute to high E. coli levels, but when it comes to filtering out phosphorous, septic systems are not very efficient.
Cunningham cited research by the EPA’s Environmental Technologies Verification program.
“Their findings show that some of the new high-tech systems can remove nitrogen if installed correctly and maintained well,” he said. “However, they are not very efficient at phosphorous removal.”
Phosphorus is the primary nutrient that enhances all aquatic plant growth in lakes. The EPA has identified phosphorus and nitrogen as the leading pollutants in lakes, reservoirs and ponds.
It is important to note that installing a sewer system in not a cure-all solution to invasive plants in the lake.
Stanley Maziuk, the chair of the Cazenovia Lake Watershed Council, said: “Sewers would certainly cut down the amount of nutrients in the lake, but the fact is Eurasian Milfoil is already in the lake and is very aggressive. The installation of sewers, in [and] of itself, is not going to stop the spread of milfoil.”
The Cazenovia Lake Watershed Council currently estimates the annual cost for weed treatment in the lake at $250,000.
With regard to the levels of phosphorus and effluent in the lake, Schicho proposes a question that many lakeside residents may be asking themselves in the coming weeks.
“Is it really a problem in need of a $7.5 million solution?”
Andrew Casler is a freelance journalist for Eagle Newspapers. He graduated Cazenovia High School in 2007 and Ithaca College in 2011 with a degree in journalism. He can be reached through the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.