BOLTON — Water quality in Lake George will be improved by the first woodchip bioreactor to be used at a municipal wastewater treatment plant.
“The Town of Bolton has demonstrated that woodchips can be used to reduce the release of algae-causing nitrate into groundwater and a tributary that feeds Lake George,” a Lake George Association press release read.
The bioreactor will be used to filter nitrates from wastewater, which have been proven to negatively impact Lake George water quality.
Nitrate is a chemical compound found in organic waste that, when released into water in large quantities and over long periods of time, can cause human and ecosystem health problems and promote algae growth.
The Bolton Wastewater Treatment Plant was built in the late 1950s and early 1960s and, like other plants of that era, lacks the denitrification stage found in modern factories that convert nitrate into nitrogen gas and release it harmlessly into the air.
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A 27-month study, following a 2016-2017 study, showed that the bioreactor removed 38% of the nitrate from the wastewater as opposed to 0% removed from the water that did not pass through the woodchip bioreactor.
The press release explains that the bioreactor adds an all-natural denitrification process to the plant’s treatment capabilities.
Wastewater is diverted from the treatment plant through the bioreactor, which is an underground cell 20 feet wide and 100 feet long, filled with a bed of Adirondack wood chips 4 feet deep, and the bacteria in the water then feed on the carbon from the chips and take their oxygen from the nitrate, converting it to nitrogen gas.
Lake George water guardian Chris Navitsky said the LGA wanted to congratulate the town of Bolton on the new addition.
“We were very excited about the project. We would like to commend the city for its implementation. This is the first known application of this technology in a municipal plant,” he said.
Navitsky hopes the work being done around the lake can serve as an example for other towns and villages along the lake.
“We believe that much of the work we do around Lake George can be a model for other communities that have similar plants that lack some of the technology to deal with nitrogen removal” , Navitsky said.
He said the problem had been identified through frequent monitoring by the LGA of areas which have potential impacts on water quality, noting sewage treatment plants were often a source.
“Our studies are what led to the replacement of the Lake George Village Wastewater Treatment Plant,” Navitsky added.
The idea of using the bioreactor is credited to city engineer Kathy Suozzo.
The project was funded by a $50,000 grant from the Lake George Fund, which has now merged with the LGA.
The bioreactor started as a demonstration project in October 2018 and would have treated 30% of the plant’s wastewater flow until maintenance was needed in June 2021.
Following the success of the study, the city applied for and was recently awarded a $246,000 grant from the New York State Water Quality Improvement Project to build two additional woodchip bioreactors on the spot.
The three bioreactors are expected to treat the 80,000 to 275,000 gallons of wastewater that passes through the plant each day.
Jana DeCamilla is a senior reporter covering Moreau, Queensbury and Lake George. She can be reached at 518-742-3272 or [email protected]