Posted by Chris Anderson on Feb 11, 2019
Pictured l to r:  Tom Walsh, President Katie Geise and Yvonne Tovell
Our speaker today was introduced by John Lloyd.  Tom Walsh, Director of the South and Center Sewer District gave the club an informative presentation on an important topic that affects the health of Chautauqua Lake and the surrounding watershed.  
The South and Center Chautauqua Lake Sewer districts were formed in 1970 to serve 5000 residents.  The maximum amount of sewage the district can handle is 4.1 millions gallons per day.  At current capacity, it pumps around 2.4 million gallons per day.  There is room to handle more capacity (more on that later). Studies indicated substantial health and environmental problems were occurring as a result of on-site disposal of sewage. Most development within the districts was halted by the Chautauqua County Health Department pending construction of adequate public sanitary facilities.  Chautauqua Lake is an impaired lake due to algae, phosphorous, etc.  In 2004, it was designated an impaired waterbody.  
30% of the properties around Chautauqua Lake rely on septic systems and many are outdated or worse, not maintained.  The rest are on the sewer systems.  There are some properties on the lake that do not have septic or sewer and there are even multiple cottages that rely on one septic system.  Lakefront cottages and homes that are not up to septic code are the most worrisome.  The homes on the lake shore are very close to the water table.  Many of those sand filters are submerged in water which does not allow percolation and polishing to occur.
Because of these issues and impending negative effects, a new sewer extension is in the process of being brought to fruition.  The sewer extenson will cost approximately $35 million.  The sewage treatment plant will also need close to $400,000 in updates as well.  $8,000,000 in grant money has been secured and the rest of the cost will be funded by user fees (only to property owners who are using the system, not all taxpayers).  The first phase of the extension will be from Sunrise Cove to the Stow Inlet area.   
Timeline for Sewer Extension Project:
  • Project Survey - Spring 2019
  • Regulatory Review - Summer/Fall 2019
  • Bidding - Fall 2019
  • Award - Fall/Winter 2019
  • Construction begins – Phase 1 – Spring 2020
  • Complete Fall 2022
The Wastewater Treatment Plant was placed in service during 1980. The villages of Lakewood and Celoron, which had sanitary sewers since 1940, were connected to the new plant. The old sewage plants that served the villages were retired. New service area connections were completed in 1985.
The Wastewater Treatment Plant typically removes 98% of the organic and solids load received, bettering the 85% required by our federal discharge permit. This equates to two tons per day of pollutants that are extracted during physical and biological treatment. In comparison, the decommissioned plants that had served Lakewood and Celoron, including West Ellicott, each removed only 50% of pollutants received.
The combined South and Center Sewer Districts comprise a Chautauqua County Enterprise Department. Their annual budget is approximately $2,600,000. All revenue comes from user charges, not from general tax revenues. More than 5,000 customers are served and there is sufficient reserve capacity at the treatment works for future regional growth.