FINDLEY LAKE - There is still a long way to go, but Mina Town Council is moving ahead with a proposal to construct a centralized sewer system for property owners in the general Findley Lake area.
Recently, council members unanimously voted to pursue a plan to create a sewer district and pursue grants to build a sewer system. The estimated cost of the project is slightly more than $14 million but could go as high as $15 million, said Mina supervisor Rebecca Brumagin.
According to Brumagin, the decision to build a centralized sewer system is the result of nearly 15 years of examining different options regarding the issue. In 2002, an environmental study was done on the lake. "That was kind of the beginning of this," she said.
Photo by David Prenatt
Town of Mina Supervisor Rebecca Brumagin looks over the proposed sewer system project.
Since the first study, the town has investigated several options, Brumagin said. "We did not start off looking at a centralized system."
The various solutions to the sewage problem included creating a tank pumping schedule, bringing all septic systems up to health department standards, creating "cluster septic systems" involving groups of homes, and a centralized system, she said.
Just recently, the town considered merging with Sherman's sewer plant, since that village was planning to upgrade. However, this was not a cost effective solution, Brumagin said, because Mina required twice the capacity of Sherman village and the price would have been prohibitive.
Throughout these years, there were new state requirements for sewer systems as well as changes to the sanitary code that affected the town's deliberations, Brumagin said.
The most significant of these was an amendment to the state sanitary code effective January, 2016, that mandated inspections for any septic system within 250 feet of a lake and for any system more than 30 years old or not on file with the state.
"So 55 percent of the properties around the lake would have to be inspected immediately," Brumagin said.
Since the state knew that Findley Lake was looking at options regarding sewer systems, it has held off conducting inspection there, Brumagin said. "They have been monitoring Findley Lake," she said. "If we don't move along, they will begin inspections. They will hold off as long as they can."
Another factor that influenced the decision to build a centralized system was that studies have shown the amount of phosphorus in the lake is about three times the recommended amount, Brumagin said. Forty-five percent of this amount comes from the various septic systems around the lake.
"A centralized sewer system will prevent all of the phosphorus from coming into the lake, whereas upgraded septic systems would not," she said.
When it came time to vote, the town sent a letter to everyone who owned property within the proposed sewer district," Brumagin said. About 250 people came to a public meeting on Jan. 21, she said.
Before the public hearing, the council reviewed all of the comments it had received and consulted the town attorney for clarification on several aspects, Brumagin said. All of the town council members were present for the public hearing.
Brumagin said the town council was as thorough as it could possibly have been before bringing the matter to a vote. "With all of the studies we have been doing and all of the options we looked at, and with how they would impact the people around the lake, we felt we've done our work," she said.
Property owners within the proposed district have until March 22 to submit a petition requesting a public vote, Brumagin said. If five percent of people in the district sign the petition, the proposal will be turned over to the Chautauqua County Board of Elections for a vote.
Brumagin said there are several grants that the town can apply for to help pay for the construction of the system. Before it can apply for these, however, the entire project has to be submitted to the state comptroller's office and an official sewer district has to be created.
If the centralized sewer system becomes a reality, capital and operating costs would be combined into a monthly fee, Brumagin said. Property owners outside of the district would not be affected, she said.
If the project moves ahead, the next step would be to begin a historical and archeological preservation study, Brumagin said.
The proposed plan, as well as all of the documents relating to it, can be viewed on the town's website at www.townofmina.info.