Keuka Lake septic systems: Different monitoring for businesses vs. homeowners
KEUKA LAKE--The Keuka Watershed Improvement Cooperative (KWIC) met Thursday, May 31 in the town of Wayne and the differences between septic system monitoring for businesses and homeowners was a shock for many in attendance.
At issue is The Switzerland Inn's current project to upgrade their restaurant's wastewater system located at 14109 Keuka Village Road (mid-way between Hammondsport and Penn Yan on the east side of Keuka Lake).
The KWIC meeting was previously scheduled and yet neighbors, concerned residents and the Keuka watershed officials also attended because the septic system was promised to be first on the agenda.
Stephen Butchko, KWIC chairman and town of Wayne supervisor heard a full range of comments from the people attending. Several people started their comments by saying, "We love The Switz and we are neighbors of the business. We want the business to be successful but we also don't want Keuka Lake to get surface discharges of wastewater. That's our drinking water!"
Butchko outlined a timeline of The Switzerland Inn's septic history. In 1994, the state Department of Environmental Conservation approved a septic system for the restaurant including a sand filter and surface discharge into Keuka Lake at the rate of 4525 wastewater gallons per day. That permit expired March 1, 1999.
Here's the problem. Butchko says the DEC never inspected the system. He said the DEC didn't inspect the septic system for 19 years since the expiration date. The DEC was contacted by the newspaper but did not answer why the septic system was not inspected.
Dennis Carlson, president of the Keuka Lake Association, said, "We don't have the monitoring for commercial businesses like we do for homeowners. It is something that we would like to change. We just don't have jurisdiction."
Butchko said the septic system has served the restaurant over the years but they started getting some complaints from residents about a year ago. After some additional complaints the Wayne supervisor talked with the restaurant's owner, Josh Trombley, in November, 2017. Butchko said Trombley assured him he would be upgrading his wastewater system in the spring. Trombley did not return a telephone call for this story.
In March of this year, the town of Wayne had not received any plans submitted for the restaurant's system so they issued an "Order To Remedy Violations." The DEC and the Department of Health then followed up with their own system failure letters to Trombley. The restaurant is now required to pump-out their holding tanks and not use their wastewater system until repaired.
In April, 2018, the DEC sent their approval of The Switzerland Inn's plan for an upgraded septic system. The proposed upgrade calls for additional septic tank storage, rebuilding one single pass sand filter, constructing a new single pass sand filter, replacing effluent lines between existing manholes, installing a tablet chlorination and dechlorination chamber, installing an aerator prior, installing a sampling chamber and installing a new discharge line in Keuka Lake. The upgraded system is proposed to handle 5,395 gallons of wastewater per day.
Butchko said, "We have tried to build in an enforceable maintenance schedule and enforceable water monitoring plan-but we don't have that yet."
Homeowners within 200 feet of Keuka Lake or designated streams that flow into Keuka are required to have their septic system inspected every five years.
The Keuka Lake Association through Carlson offered this statement: "The KLA is on the record of not supporting any action that would permit the discharge of an estimated 5,395 gallons of partially treated waste water per day into Keuka Lake. We have foiled the NYS DEC for the application documents and provided them to the Keuka Watershed Improvement Cooperative (KWIC). We believe that every resident of Keuka Lake who values its pristine waters should be informed and make their own decision to comment on this application during the DEC's open comment period which runs until June 22, 2018. Technology exists that could handle the wastewater and not require it being discharged into Keuka Lake."
Butchko also added the restaurant's proposed septic upgrade is now available for public comment through the DEC until June 22, 2018. Comments on this project must be submitted in writing to: Teresa Diehsner, NYSDEC, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233.