On Wednesday, December 11, property owners in the Lake Lincolndale and Lake Shenorock communities will decide whether to create Sewer District #2. If you vote in favor, and we hope you do, we will be able to invest $10 million of New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) funds in your communities to construct new sewer infrastructure. If you don’t, we will lose the funds and the chance to enter into the County’s fiercely protected sewer district.
To those who oppose the sewers because of future fees, we urge you to reconsider. We understand your concerns, and want to work closely with you to allay your fears. But, by not taking advantage of the $10 million fund now, we will have to pay a much greater price later on, in terms of footing a larger bill for future sewer construction; impacts to public health and the environment caused by grey and wastewater leeching into groundwater and wells (even where septic systems seem to be functioning); and, the potential for negative impacts to property values as these issues start to arise.
Sewer fees will be comparable to the long-term costs of maintaining and eventually replacing your septic systems, but sewers won’t cause the environmental harm that failing septic systems will.
The eventual need for a sewer system in your hamlets is inescapable and this is our moment to act. NYCDEP money can fully fund the first phase of the project, and the County’s sewage treatment plant in Peekskill is finally willing to accommodate us – bringing down project costs.
It helps to understand the history.
Homes in Lincolndale and Shenorock were first constructed in the 1930’s and 1940’s on small lots for summer use only. As the homes were used intermittently during the year, the septic systems were deemed sufficient at that time.
Today, most of the homes in these densely populated areas are occupied year-round and their septic systems are not a good long-term solution for wastewater management. In your communities, small property lots don’t give you much leeway to build new leeching fields when the septic systems fail, as they will, because of their age, close proximity to bedrock and groundwater. Scientists and engineers know more now about environmental conditions and their impact on health than they did 75 years ago. And, we know that the density of septic systems in Lake Lincolndale and Shenorock would not comply with current NYS Health Dept., County Health Dept. and NYC Department of Environmental Protection regulations. Further, the current density of septic systems far exceed U.S. EPA standards.
As documented in Lake Shenorock, water quality reports show that the lake has been impacted by septics in the form of coliform bacteria and nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorous, which are together resulting in its eutrophication. This combined with stormwater runoff created environmental issues in the lake too complex for the local homeowners association to afford and manage. The ownership of the lake has since defaulted to the Town of Somers, and these issues are now the responsibility of the Town and its taxpayers.
A similar fate awaits Lake Lincolndale where septic tanks are already failing. It’s just a matter of time before septic issues widely impact water quality, a situation that will not be remedied by just storm water management projects or the pumping out of septic systems every 2-3 years.
There’s no escaping the fact that the over-saturation of septic systems in the Lake Lincolndale and Lake Shenorock hamlets will, inevitably, require sewers. In Lincolndale property owners rely on wells for potable water, making the need for sewer even more dire. If we turn down the $10 million grant now, future sewers and/or a municipal water system in Lincolndale will come at a far, far greater expense.
What our neighbors are doing:
The idea of converting high-density areas from septic systems to sewer systems is not new or unique to Somers. Communities in Northern Westchester and Putnam have been investing in these projects for years, including our neighboring municipalities. Most recently the Peach Lake community in North Salem, with a demographic similar to Lakes Shenorock and Lincolndale, undertook a $32 million sewer project. In Long Island, Suffolk County is investing $4 billion to move homeowners away from septic systems as the long-term impacts there have been disastrous.
Concerns have been voiced about costs, many legitimate but some based on misinformation. So, let me help set the record straight: the average projected cost per household that you will pay for operations, maintenance, and projected financing, will be approximately $100 per month. That’s a little over $23 per week, or roughly $3.30 per day.
For those who are concerned that the project will change the character of your communities because the value of the homes will increase, fear not. Zoning will never be changed in this district to allow for development. Projected increased property values of homes connected to sewers does NOT allow the Town to increase taxes and collect more revenue.
The real costs you face are the associated long term environmental and public health issues that will be far more detrimental to you and your properties—than paying for a sanitary sewer system.
Use it or lose it:
Finally, we need to be proactive. We must use the $10 million subsidy for the sewer infrastructure now before the money disappears, and further environmental impacts occur. For over two years Town engineers have collaborated with community groups in both lake communities and held public informational meetings to educate property owners about the project. Leading up to the vote, the Town is committed to mailing fact sheets to every household within both lake communities, and holding additional public information meetings to ensure that property owners have every opportunity to get their specific questions answered. We want you to have the facts so you can make an informed decision on December 11.
I know I speak for the Town Board when I say we strongly support this project because it will benefit the Lake Lincolndale and Lake Shenorock communities. My door is always open. Let us reason together and work together for a better, healthier future.