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December 05. 2012 10:42PM

Meredith takes new steps to protect Lake Waukewan

MEREDITH - Selectmen unanimously passed a new health regulation this week designed to remediate the high levels of phosphorus and stop the toxic algae blooms in Lake Waukewan, the town's drinking water supply.

Residents using town water are not presently at risk from the lake chemicals, but the Waukewan Watershed Advisory Committee proposed the regulation to prevent future problems from aging, failing septic systems, said Randy Eifert, chairman of the committee.

"We're trying to stay ahead of the curve," Eifert said. "Besides the high levels of phosphorus, Waukewan has had 6-8 toxic algae blooms in the past few years, and that's not good for any lake."

The new regulation specifically addresses 26 private septic systems within 250 feet of the shoreline that were deemed "very high risk" by a recent lake study. The septic systems identified have no corresponding local or state records.

"They could be 50 years old or more," Eifert said. "We don't know what they are, so they are classified high-hazard systems."

Committee officials aren't sure those systems are what is causing the lake's problems, but the new regulation will help determine whether they are. The regulation will be enforced by the town health officer, who will be sending the owners of those systems letters informing them that they have two years to have them inspected. If the systems are not failing and pass inspection, they will be given a permit for the next five years. If not, a new system will be required.

The selectmen passed the regulation unanimously at a hearing Monday night.

The regulation also includes a provision that would have septic system owners get approval for newly designed systems if major additions are made to their buildings. There are still other high-risk septic systems on the lake, as its shores are shared by Center Harbor and New Hampton.

"There may be another 30-40 at high-risk in those towns," Eifert said. "We'll have to see how the other towns feel about this."

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Dan Seufert may be reached at dseufert@newstote.com.


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