Guest Columns

The Science is Clear: Sewers Are Needed for Lake Shenorock, Lincolndale

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By Stephanie McQuade Geiger

I grew up in Lake Shenorock, but I learned how to swim in Lake Lincolndale. My parents bought their home in a lake community because they envisioned summers by the lake, but it was too polluted by the time I was born to swim in. 

We were guest members of Lake Lincolndale growing up. I loved the lake so much that when my husband and I had saved enough money to buy our first home, and one came onto the market in our price range, I insisted that we put in an offer. The inspection revealed that the water was not potable; it was contaminated with coliform bacteria. 

My husband was hesitant about the home, but I insisted that the school district was excellent, and I wanted to raise our future family in this community. A community that I felt was made of people who supported each other. And my dream of being able to walk to the lake and enjoy a summer afternoon with my family could be realized. So we bought the home, had a UV filter installed and started saving up to dig a new well.  

When I learned about sewers coming to Somers, I was at a DEP water quality program for science teachers. I have a degree in chemistry and have been a high school science teacher for 12 years. Last summer I was trained as a watershed and forestry expert. Learning about how New York City gets its water from our reservoirs and how they give grants to our area to help us protect our environment because it is more cost-effective to give us money to improve our infrastructure than to filter their water mechanically. 

Lake Shenorock was identified as a target community for that money. There are only five communities in Westchester that were included. They were identified because of the incredibly high density of septic systems. When septic systems are this closely packed together, they are not able to filter the water before it is recycled back into the drinking water.

The town requested that Lake Lincolndale could also be included because we not only have septic systems, but we also have wells that pump that water into our homes. The fact that there’s bacteria in my drinking water is proof enough to me that we are drinking from our neighbor’s septic system.

Septic systems are designed so that the soil filters the sewage that is pumped into our backyards. We have pushed the limits of these systems and it is frankly unhealthy to continue to live like this. Septic systems also do not filter out other contaminants like pharmaceuticals and cleaning products. Every drop of water that goes down our toilets and drains is recycled back into the water supply.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take the $10 million and use it to improve our infrastructure. Some people have recommended that instead of a communitywide, long-term project we burn the money on expensive new septic systems. I have researched these systems and found that since each one would be hooked into the electricity of our homes and since they require a large amount of individual homeowner maintenance this is not the best way to use the money. Having spent time with DEP officials, I asked about our project and was informed that this $10 million is for a sewer project and that going back to the drawing board would probably mean losing the money altogether.  

Some residents have said that the lakes are not affected by the sewage, and that instead the problem is stormwater runoff. The sewer system will divert 325,000 gallons of water per day from our groundwater. That will allow our soil to recover and absorb stormwater, filtering it before it reaches the lake. There is not one thing that is causing the lakes to become eutrophic and grow blue-green algae, but doing nothing is not a better solution. 

The fact is that I am in Phase 2 means that we will be paying $1,187 a year for the sewer. That includes the hookup fee, the cost for the Peekskill plant to process our sewage and the bond. I have attended every town meeting and asked many questions. I have been appalled at people from my community yelling, cursing and failing to follow basic rules. 

I am writing today because the sewer will improve the health of our communities and the health of our lakes. Many have stood up and said that their septic is fine, that they are not the problem, their neighbor is. That is not how a community works, and that is not how the water flows. We are all connected through our water and through our community. We need to come together and vote yes on the sewers on Nov. 10. Our health depends on it.   
Stephanie McQuade Geiger is a Lake Lincolndale resident.

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