PLATTSBURGH — Property owners in the Isle La Motte watershed looking to replace, repair or upgrade their septic systems may be eligible for partial reimbursement grants of their projects through the Clinton County Health Department.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) recently awarded the local agency $250,000 through the State Septic System Replacement Fund. The grants can cover up to 50 percent of project costs, up to $10,000.
“The goals are basically to replace failing septic systems and improve water quality for the priority water body,” CCHD Director of Environmental Health Ryan Davies said.
CCHD previously received $75,000 through the fund in 2018 for reimbursement of septic improvement projects at primary residences along Upper Chateaugay Lake. Davies processed 11 applications during that round, which was expanded to include some properties along Lake Champlain.
The program has since opened up to businesses and seasonal homes as well.
For this latest round, properties along the northern portion of Lake Champlain, from Cumberland Head to Rouses Point, with septic systems that need improvement are eligible, Davies said.
“One of the criteria set is that they be within 250 feet of the priority water body, so that’s generally people along the waterfront,” he added.
BASED ON DEMAND
According to a resolution passed by the Clinton County Legislature, the funds must be utilized by the end of 2026.
The last time around, CCHD was not flooded with applications so they were processed on a first-come, first-served basis. Ideally, Davies said, it will stay that way, unless there is a large initial demand.
“If there is, we may award based on need or impact to the environment."
Davies said there appears to be increasing demand for septic systems in Clinton County. In 2019, his office processed about 179 permit applications. That number increased to 279 in 2020.
“I’m hopeful people will be very interested in this (grant program),” he added.
POOR SOIL, BEDROCK
Along the lake, there will often be poor soil and bedrock issues, Davies said.
So one of CCHD’s requirements is that septic systems’ absorption fields be 100 feet away from the lake.
“These homes that were built in the 1950s or 1960s, they have small lots so they don’t meet the distances,” Davies said. “When they (the septic systems) fail, fluid can end up in the lake and affect quality.”
CCHD generally likes to make sure the new systems are better than their predecessors and meet code to the maximum extent practical, he said.
The DEC and EFC decide which water bodies are targeted with the funds, so Davies is not sure if or when properties along other water bodies in the county may be eligible for the funds.
APPLY FOR PROGRAM
Applications for the State Septic System Replacement Fund will be posted to clintonhealth.org/septic. Residents who believe they are eligible or have questions about the program can contact Davies at 518-565-4870.
According to the CCHD website, property owners who apply and are chosen to participate in the program should then contract with an engineer to design the septic system, obtain a permit from CCHD, undergo construction and seek reimbursement.
Davies said people may apply for the grant at any point during the process, though it is suggested that they do so during the initial steps of their project.
“To allocate the correct amount of funds, it’s important we have a good estimate from a contractor.”
Reimbursement requests must be submitted within 90 days of project completion. Those requests include a completed form, any applicable design approval, the invoice(s) for eligible costs and proof of payment.
CCHD will then review the requests and supporting documentation and, upon confirmation of the eligible project costs, issue the grants in the form of reimbursement payments.
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