LAKE PLACID - Officials here hope contractors will begin working on a multi-million-dollar trunk sewer line replacement in April, the biggest infrastructure project the village has seen in many years.
The initial estimates for the project were at $5.3 million, but Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall said the cost to village taxpayers will be closer to $3.2 million. The reductions came from a $1 million grant for the restoration of the Chubb River and efficiency savings made during the planning of the sewer line.
The project will focus on removing 100-year-old clay sewer lines, one 24-inch pipe and another 15-inch pipe. They will be replaced with one new, plastic 30-inch pipe, which should be able to maintain the same flow into the wastewater treatment plant on Power Pond Road.
Brad Hathaway, superintendent of the village's Department of Public Works said savings came from rerouting the two sewer lines into one more direct route to the treatment plant.
"The village engineer (Ivan Zdrahal) and myself came up with the plan to move the trunk line," Hathaway said, standing at the site. "It was moved once the pond was gone. It created a much straighter shot."
Randall said the rerouting saved the village $1 million.
"When they did the first plan they were following the same pattern, but in some areas the dig is over 20 feet - very expensive," Randall said. "So the engineer said if we lowered the pond we could come across land at no more than 10 or 12 feet."
The back story
Randall said the sewer replacement planning began after a series of studies on the village dam at Lower Mill Pond.
"In 1979, surrounding the Olympic buildup, an engineering study was done at the dam, and it said a new turbine would be installed," Randall said. "It raised some questions about the integrity of the dam, but nothing was done."
The state Department of Environmental Conservation issued a consent order to the village in 2004, directing it to begin planning for the sewer line replacement.
In the summer of 2003 during Ironman, when an influx of people were in the village, a sewer spill occured at the wastewater treatment plant that sent sewage flowing into the Chubb and the AuSable rivers. The spill raised concerns and the threat of lawsuits from downstream communities such as Wilmington, which was forced to close its beach for a time as a result of high bacteria levels from the spill.
The spill spurred a reinvestment into the wastewater treatment plant, which was rebuilt with upgrades in 2005.
"The village, before I became mayor five years ago, had started on the planning process (for the sewer), but they hadn't come to any conclusions on it," Randall said. "When I came in, the first things I did was secure the approval of the board ... for another $100,000 to finish the plan."
Randall said an updated study from the New York Power Authority had a lot more information than the previous study. Village officials came to the conclusion that, given the cost of a new turbine and limited water flow in the river, it was not going to be a practical investment to repair and upgrade the dam.
Randall said the study determined that the dam, which was built in the 1920s, was not needed.
"Given the rates we pay for electric, it would take about 100 years to get a recovery on investment to put a new hydro-generator in there," he said.
The village then successfully went after the federal grant that funded the dam demolition and the restorations to the river. Power Pond was drained in August and will not be refilled.
Hathaway said once the new sewer is built, the layout will provide better access to clean the pipes with a new road and manhole covers. The old clay pipes did not have manhole covers.
"Both (pipes) under the pond were inaccessible," he said.
The new plastic pipes have different features that make them more desirable. They are easier to handle than the clay pipes and will have less water infiltration.
"The old lines, cement falls out of the joints," Hathaway said. "The (pond) water seeps into the sewer, and you have to process higher volumes of water."
The plan is for the contractor to start working in April, but the start date may be dependent on the weather. If everything goes according to plan, the job should be completed by the fall.
"We're supposed to be completed sometime this year," Hathaway said. "We've got, realistically, until October or November."
Hathaway said that, time-wise, the river restoration project is about halfway complete and the trunk line project is about a fourth of the way complete. So far, the trunk has been installed at the wastewater treatment plant where the sewer line enters the plant.
Randall said the project has gone pretty smoothly up until this point.
"It started last August and shut down around October at the end of the season," Randall said.
Hathaway said the contractor has been outstanding, getting further than he expected they would last year.
After the sewer project is completed, there is a plan to create trails along Chubb River connecting with other trails in North Elba. A pair of wooden bridges are proposed to be a part of the trail.