By Gwen Chamberlain
KEUKA LAKE — The June 22 deadline to submit public comments to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation regarding a new septic system at the Switzerland Inn is near.
Some of those comments are likely to include concerns about state oversight to ensure a new system is functioning properly. State officials say as long as a permit holder meets the requirements of the permit, which includes self-monitoring its operation and limiting the amount of fluid discharged, the permit will be granted. The permit will require full treatment of fluids as required by the U.S. Environmental Agency.
The new plan under consideration to replace the system will incorporate an existing discharge pipe which allows treated effluent to be discharged into the lake.
According to information received from the DEC, the only other permit that allows a discharge into Keuka Lake is held by the Penn Yan Municipal Water Treatment Plant. That means the septic system operated at the Switzerland Inn since 1994 is the only system permitted to discharge treated septic effluents into Keuka Lake.
Keuka Lake is a class AA waterbody, protected for its use for drinking water, which results in the requirement for a State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit.
The SPDES program is the state’s method of permitting discharges in cases where the DEC has jurisdiction, namely in cases where the discharge is to surface water, not groundwater. Lake water is included in the surface water definition. Meanwhile, another state agency — the Department of Health — recommends against the use of untreated surface water for consumption.
The Switzerland Inn, and some neighbors draw drinking water supply from Keuka Lake. The restaurant treats the water it draws from the lake by filtration, chlorination, and ultraviolet light disinfection. DOH officials say the water is sampled on a regular basis with bacteriological samples being collected monthly when the system is in operation.
The DOH provided a statement in response to questions about the water quality in the area around the restaurant: “The New York State Department of Health works closely with the Department of Environmental Conservation to ensure that wastewater discharges do not compromise the quality of drinking water. The Department is aware that a new wastewater system for the Switzerland Inn is currently under review by the DEC and confirms that the temporary plan for sewage discharge does not impact neighboring properties.”
SPDES permit renewal times vary, depending on the volume of discharge and the receiving water body, according to information received from DEC. The Chronicle-Express has also learned the 1994 permit issued to the Switzerland Inn’s previous owner, was administratively extended. While the most recent DEC inspection occurred Sept. 19, 2017, after Wayne Town officials cited the system, it had not been inspected in the previous five years. The permit process requires the permit holder to self-monitor the system on a monthly basis during the first year of operation.
New York State DEC is responsible for the oversight of any system designed to handle more than 1,000 gallons per day. Otherwise, around Keuka Lake, systems that are designed to handle up to 1,000 gallons per day are monitored by Keuka Watershed Improvement Cooperative.
Switzerland Inn owner Josh Trombley is now required to hold all wastewater in the system’s tanks for pumping and disposal by a hauler at a sewage treatment facility. There is no schedule for how often the wastewater is hauled, as long as there is no discharge to the environment.