The goal of upgrading the sewer systems around Chautauqua Lake is moving toward becoming a reality.
During County Executive Vince Horrigan's State of the County address last week, he referenced his "Operation Jump-Start" initiative while detailing plans for future priorities in Chautauqua County.
According to Horrigan, the completion of a sewer district around Chautauqua Lake would aid in economic development for the area.
"The Chautauqua Lake sewer system is a key component of my Jump-Start initiative," Horrigan said. "We are in the process of selecting an engineering firm to complete the feasibility study for completing the sewer system around the lake."
According to Mark Geise, deputy director of Chautauqua County Department of Planning & Economic Development, the "Chautauqua County Wastewater Consolidation Study" - which Horrigan referred to - is being funded by a $50,000 grant.
"The South & Center Chautauqua Lake Sewer District applied for and received a grant through the Consolidated Funding Application from the state Environmental Facilities Corporation to undertake a feasibility study, to see the best outcome to extend and/or upgrade treatment facilities," Geise said. "We developed a Request For Proposal, detailing the scope of work and sent it to engineers on March 17."
According to Geise, all responses are due back by April 21, at which time officials will choose the best firm for the study.
Included in the Request For Proposal is an explanation of the challenges facing Chautauqua Lake, project objectives, scope of the project and project requirements.
According to the request, the goal of the project is to protect public health and improve the lake's water quality through a reduction of phosphorus, nitrogen and microbian loading to groundwater and the lake, which is occurring because of leaching septic systems and a lack of tertiary treatment at wastewater treatment plants. Officials are looking to uncover the most cost-effective method or methods for servicing the entire lake with tertiary systems, update wastewater treatment plants and for recommendations of infrastructure to provide the greatest benefits to the entire community.
"This study will give us a road map and will set us up for funding in the future," Geise said. "We need to know what makes the most sense for us to do."
According to Geise, if all goes according to plan, the study should begin by this May.
"Chautauqua Lake has municipal sewers servicing approximately 65 percent of the lakeshore community currently," said Thomas Walsh, director of South & Center Chautauqua Lake Sewer District. "The main objective is to sewer the entire lakeshore community on Chautauqua Lake, whether it's one sewer district or several all working to preserve the water quality of Chautauqua Lake."
Discussions about a consolidated sewer district around the lake have been ongoing between South & Center, other sewer districts around the lake, lake groups and area residents.
At the beginning of his term as county executive, Horrigan made his intentions for a unified sewer district common knowledge.
"We're very concerned," Horrigan said. "It's a very important infrastructure piece, bringing all the sewer districts together. The sewer districts and I are working together on this, and it will be a very important part of my administration."