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North Salem’s Peach Lake To Have a Clear, Clean Future

The Peach Lake Environmental Center is on approximately 2 1/2 acres in the Vail's Grove community. Photo Credit: Katherine Pacchiana
North Salem Town Councilman Bruce Barton Buchholtz at the site. Photo Credit: Katherine Pacchiana

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – The long-anticipated Peach Lake sewage system is just a few weeks away from completion. Engineers from the international environmental corporation GHD, principal designers of the project, met with members of the Town Board on Wednesday to explain how the Peach Lake Environmental Center will work.

Problems with the lake were first investigated around 2003. A wastewater study showed utrification, which is an excess of nutrients such as nitrates and phosphates. The problem continued unresolved until 2010, when a new sewage treatment system was designed to replace the area's aging septic systems.

“People really love the lake,” said Sarah Cwikla of GHD, “but a few people resisted a sewage treatment plant because they thought it implied growth.

“The fact is, the new plant will replace the septic systems of 470 existing homes. The Department of Environmental Protection will not allow more than 470 homes to tie into it, so there is no room for growth.”

“This is considered a small plant,” said her colleague Kenneth Kohlbrenner. “It’s designed to process 170,000 gallons per day. Right now it’s processing 90,000 to 100,000. There’s a lot of redundancy built into it, so if one part fails, it can still continue to run. It doesn’t need a 24-hour staff to maintain it, because so much is automated.”

The plant is under daily oversight by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The primary sewage screening, where the grit and solids are removed, occurs at the head works, which are in a small red and white barn-like building planned to complement the area’s architecture. The runoff goes from the head works into the sequential batch reactor tank, where anaerobic digesters prepare the wastewater for discharge through the third and final step, the filtration system. 

At that point, the water is completely clean, said Kohlbrenner, just like tap water. It is then discharged into Peach Lake Brook.

Four Peach Lake communities are involved: Vail’s Grove, Pietsch Gardens, Bloomerside and Northern Westchester Country Club, also known as “the hotel property.” Most of the property is in North Salem, but a portion of Vail’s Grove is in Southeast in Putnam County. The sewage treatment facility, therefore, is owned 74 percent by North Salem and 26 percent by Southeast.

Town Board member Bruce Barton Buchholtz said, “This is a terrific example of intermunicipal cooperation, and it’s an important step forward for our town. And, while it improves the quality of the lake it’ll also enhance the property values of the residents.”

Board member Amy Rosmarin asked, “When will the lake be really clean?”

Cwikla responded, “You won’t see an immediate effect, but the odor will be eliminated. In five or six years you’ll begin to see major changes. In 10 years there will be a significant change.”

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