The Somers Town Board hit the road last week to fill residents in on the status of a number of important things, including pending sewer and stormwater projects in the hamlets of Shenorock and Lincolndale.
The Thursday, Oct. 11, meeting was held at the Somers Community Center’s Crystal Hall.
Town engineer Joe Barbagallo told the two dozen attendees that the town has applied for a Local Waterfront Revitalization Project grant to protect Lake Shenorock, which is showing signs of “eutrophication,” the process where a body of water becomes packed with minerals and nutrients that cause plants and algae to grow and suck up all the oxygen. This kills off fish and eventually turns it into a swamp.
Dense development—with pesticide and herbicide runoff from lawns and possibly coliform bacteria from leaky septic systems—appears to be the culprit.
The watershed protection project has been earmarked for a $10 million grant. However, the county has been sitting on the money ever since a memorandum of agreement was signed in 1993.
In 2015, the town conducted a wastewater study targeting Shenorock. The lake subsequently qualified as an inland water body and the town developed a three-pronged approach in 2017, one part of which was the “sewering” the hamlets.
The $10 million won’t cover everything, but will be enough to put in “base infrastructure” and connect 200 homes in Shenorock and Lincolndale during Phase 1, he said.
The town, now focusing on getting the grant money, has made “good progress” with the county and New York Ctiy Department of Environmental Protection, Barbagallo said.
Wastewater from Shenorock will be pumped to The Preserve, a housing development in Baldwin Place, and then on to the Westchester County’s treatment facility in Peekskill if the county approves.
Effluent from Lincolndale will be handled by a treatment facility at Heritage Hills.
According to the EPA, private septic systems, which cost thousands to replace if they fail, are the third most common source of groundwater contamination.
The underground pumping stations will be sized to handle future hookups as the sewering project progresses. In Phase One, only those homeowners who are hooked up to the system will be billed.
The initial project targets the properties that impact the lakes the most, creating kind of a shield.
“That gives us the biggest bang for the buck,” Barbagallo explained.
Because having enough “flow” to justify the project is crucial to getting the grant, Somers is trying to make hooking up more financially accessible.
The average annual operations and maintenance bill is about $700, but it depends on whether hook-up costs are factored in.
The town will continue to seek grants and seek low-interest loans as the sewer project advances.
Barbagallo estimated it could take up to five years to get through the funding, design, and construction phases.
Ross Drive resident Bob Gilmartin said some homes are “below grade” and the gravity flow systems wouldn’t work.
“I don’t think my neighbor would like it if I had to run a [sewer] line through his backyard,” he said.
Barbagallo told him that everything will be addressed during the design phase.
There will be another meeting on the sewer project on Jan. 20, 2019.
He also addressed the Lake Shenorock stormwater retrofit project.
The town would like to dredge the lake, but in the meantime, it plans to install four hydrodynamic stormwater separators, reinforce eroded swales, and remove invasive species whose roots erode soil banks and cause sediment, which can contain a lot of phosphorus, to get into the water. They will also build an access path that all town residents can use for recreational purposes and put down wood chips and grass seed to snuff out invasives.
The project is 75 percent funded by the state DEC; the rest by the East of Hudson Watershed Corporation. This means it won’t cost local taxpayers a dime. (EOH was established by municipalities in Westchester, Putnam and, Dutchess counties in the New York City watershed to install stormwater retrofit projects to meet state phosphorus reduction requirements.)
There are no plans at this time to open the lake up for swimming.
The contract for the $442,511 project was awarded to Nicky Diggs Excavating, a local business.
Construction begins in a few weeks. If the weather cooperates, work will be completed by December. Grass will be planted this spring.