July 22, 2012

A chance to help our lake

Last week was a good one for Plattsburgh. Another spectacular Mayor’s Cup weekend concluded and the Senate approved a farm bill that provides funding to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program for small city sewer facility improvements. This may be just what the City of Plattsburgh needs to turn the corner.

Visions of a revitalized downtown core have come and gone. While downtown is getting nicer every year, the elephant in that room remains the sewage treatment plant just across the river from the McDonough Monument and within a stone’s throw of City Hall.

The sewage treatment plant was a terrific improvement in its day. Up to the 1970s, the city shoreline was used for railroad tracks and warehouses, storage yards and garbage dumps. Some of these sites have been abandoned, others are in disrepair. Yet, few places have been reclaimed so that residents and visitors alike can marvel over the shoreline of the city on the lake.

Given the other less flattering uses of the lake, it should have come as no surprise in the 1970s when a new sewage treatment plant was built in the heart of our downtown core. The federal program in the early days of an Environmental Protection Agency effort to clean up our lakes and streams was a boon for Plattsburgh. The city built a new plant and brought its sewer effluent discharge into Lake Champlain up to the standards then deemed adequate.

That was four decades ago. Now, we recognize that these former standards do not address other effluents that are polluting our lake. The sewage treatment plant met standards developed a couple of generations ago, but does not meet today’s standards. Because the plant is grandfathered into now obsolete standards, it is legally within discharge limits, except on the days when it is not.

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