MAINTENANCE OF SEPTIC TANK SYSTEMS
As many of you know, failing septic systems are the major source of nutrient buildup in lake waters, usually in the form of phosphorus. Aquatic weeds thrive on phosphorus, growing taller and bushier when exposed to higher-than-natural levels. The following are some basic recommendations for your septic system.
1. Identify and mark the location of your septic tank and leaching fields. This will not only facilitate pump-outs but will also protect the septic tank and leaching fields from possible damage caused by any heavy vehicles or equipment driving across them and from unsafe digging.
2. Prepare and use a log sheet showing dates of pump-outs and repair work done on the system. Also enter into the log the number of weeks the septic system was used each year and the average number of people using the septic system per week. This information will be useful in scheduling septic maintenance. Good record keeping can be helpful if septic tank problems develop.
3. Have your septic system checked annually by a licensed septic system contractor. This will afford good protection for the lake, for yourself, and for any others who use your property. It will also help you keep your system in top-notch working condition.
4. If you suspect that your system is leaching into the ground surface (you detect odorous water on the surface near the leach field) or into the lake (you detect discoloration of the water or a bad odor), request tracing dye from the NYS Health Department. Tracing dye is a highly fluorescent, water-soluble, biodegradable dye. The dye is flushed down the toilet, allowing you to determine where your waste water is actually going. If the dye comes to the surface of the ground or appears in the lake, you should call a septic system contractor immediately.
5. Keep available a list of licensed contractors that perform septic system maintenance in the Augur Lake area. Here is a list of some of the local contractors from the telephone book.
(ALPOA does not endorse or recommend contractors.)
A. Shingle Street Sand & Septic, 653 Shingle Street,
800-287-8086 – 518-643-2731
B. Morrisonville Septic Tank Service
119 Rabideau Street, Cadyville, NY.
C. Carl Bouyea
Septic system installations and repairs are under the purview of the New York State Department of Health. The district office that oversees Essex, Franklin and Hamilton counties is located in Saranac Lake.
District Administrator, NYS Dept. of Health
41 St. Bernard Street
Saranac Lake, NY. 12983
Phosphorus is a fertilizer and one of the major nutrients necessary for plant growth. Aquatic vegetation, like land plants, require nutrients to grow. When plant growth in a lake becomes a problem, one of the most effective responses is to limit growth by reducing the amount of fertilizer, particularly phosphorus.
There are two major sources that may supply phosphorus to a lake, external and internal. Phosphorus from external sources is usually transported into the lake through seepage or run-off from around the lake. This may be due to poorly designed and maintained septic systems, chemicals used on property, or fertilizers applied to lawns. It can also be the result of nutrient-rich soil and sediment carried into the lake during construction or any other time the ground is disturbed. Using phosphorus-free dishwashing and laundry soaps for all washing needs can help to limit phosphorus from external sources. Similarly, lawn fertilizers containing phosphorus should never be used on lakefront property. Indeed, any lawn fertilizer should be used with great care (if at all).
The internal sources are much harder to identify and control. The bottom of most lakes is covered with silt and sediment, which are usually heavily laden with materials rich in phosphorus. In shallow water these sediments may stimulate the growth of rooted plants such as watermilfoil. Installing and maintaining buffer strips consisting of taller vegetation left at the water's edge will impede lawn run-off, helping to keep fertilizers from the lake and reducing the amount of leaf and other property debris that reaches the lake.
In addition, run-off from highway and secondary roads can threaten the well-being of the lake as oils and snow-melting salts can wash into the lake. The ALPOA has checked several times with the state and local highway departments requesting that low-salting areas be established near Butternut Pond and Augur Lake. They have assured us they use only minimum levels of salt or no salt in our area. All property owners should be on the watch for any major run-off points, without control devices, that may negatively affect Augur Lake.