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Communities Unite To Save Lake

Engineers Recommend Low-pressure Septics


Early in 2023, a unique coalition of four Otsego municipalities and a citizen-led lake association joined in a Memorandum of Agreement to fund an engineering study. The purpose of the study was to determine what type of sewer system might best serve Canadarago Lake residents. The study, completed by Delaware Engineering of Albany and Oneonta, was ready for public presentation by mid-May. On Tuesday, May 23, a public meeting was held at the Richfield school to unveil the highlights of the study. Nearly 200 residents from the Canadarago Lake community attended, both in person and virtually via Zoom.

After a brief introduction by the Richfield town supervisor, Matt Dombrowski, president of the Canadarago Lake Improvement Association, gave a concise summary of the water quality issues presenting in the lake. He stressed the need for the sewer system as a means to halt the nutrient loading into the water, giving the lake the time to begin to heal itself.

“This will not be an overnight, quick fix,” Dombrowski asserted. “It took a long time for conditions to reach this point, and it will take time to go in the other direction.”

Following Dombrowski was Matt Davis of Delaware Engineering, who presented the scenarios that the study had produced. Of the four, one was to take no action, which would spell the eutrophication of the lake and its eventual end. Three scenarios outlined sewer systems of slightly varying types, with costs ranging up to $38 million.

Davis then offered Delaware’s recommendation: a low-pressure sewer system with grinder pumps at each occupied property, utilizing the Village of Richfield Springs’ Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is currently operating far below its capacity. The cost of this option was estimated at $28 million, lower than the highest estimate. Other benefits to this option were less land disturbance, elimination of infiltration and inflow concerns, and fewer easements required.

Delaware Engineering partners Mary Beth Bianconi and Alan Tavenner, one a planner and the other an engineer, then took over for a question-and-answer session that lasted nearly an hour. While the questions reflected some concern about costs to residents and effectiveness of the system, there were many positive reactions, notably from virtual participants. Bianconi reminded everyone present that all of the work to this point is very preliminary, and that obtaining sufficient funding and financing are key to moving forward, with the aim of keeping costs low for residents.

The meeting closed with an outline of next steps the communities need to take. The Town of Richfield has agreed to take the lead in this process. The first step has been to list the project on the CWRSF Intended Use Plan, which was done in the days following the meeting. CWRSF stands for Clean Water State Revolving Fund; it is an EPA-state partnership that ranks projects in order of importance. Sometime this summer, the ranking will be published. Another summer 2023 objective is to begin the SEQR, or State Environmental Quality Review, followed by creation of a Sewer District and Intermunicipal Agreements, likely bond resolutions, and then grant and financing applications. If all proceeds smoothly, construction could begin in late 2024.



  1. News tip. The Otsego Lake Watershed Commission meets today at 3 at Cooperstown Village hall. Lake conditions and plans under discussion. New representatives from Town of Otsego and the Village. New Chair Bertine McKenna. Call Marcia Nye Village clerk for agenda

  2. Excellent work. Septic systems are not designed to remove phosphorus and nitrogen from the discharge – and those are the two HAB fertilizers so the septic systems are creating the HAB problem in the lake

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