Failing Septic Systems Are Contaminating Somers Groundwater

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Septic systems are now leaching contaminants into our drinking water in Shenorock and Lincolndale, the areas in the proposed Somers Sewer District No. 2. The facts show that there are too many private septic systems on these R-10-zoned properties. We have 673 septic systems in Shenorock (0.46 square miles) and 316 in Lincolndale (0.37 square miles). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that more than 40 septic systems per square mile is considered high density. By my math, that means that anything over 18 systems in Shenorock and 14 in Lincolndale is high. Shenorock has almost 37 times more than that and Lincolndale has over 21 times more.

Septic tanks, especially the many old ones that are here, leach contaminants into our drinking water. Lake Lincolndale is a barometer for what’s seeping into the groundwater that we drink. A 2020 Syracuse University/Upstate Freshwater Institute study found caffeine and sucralose (Splenda) in the lake. These chemicals get into the lake only through the groundwater, and they get into the groundwater only through septic systems. Their presence in Lake Lincolndale indicates that these systems are now leaching contaminants into the groundwater, our drinking water.

There is always opposition to plans for new sewers wherever they are proposed, and the opposition always makes the same points no matter where the project is: taxes will go up, there are cheaper and better ways to do it, property and quiet will be disturbed, uncontrolled development will follow, there are hidden agendas, and so forth. But North Salem, Yorktown, Bedford and New Castle have already moved ahead on their sewer projects. Somers has potential access to $10 million in funding toward solving these problems and it should not be wasted.

We can’t keep pumping sewage into the ground while pretending that it won’t pollute our drinking water. Public sewers represent progress in sanitation, hygiene, epidemiology and environmental conservation. They increase property values. They demonstrate community spirit.

I urge you to vote yes for clean water. I urge you to vote yes for the establishment of Somers Sewer District No. 2.

Michael Schwarzchild

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