Lake Water Quality

For more than a century, the SOA has been a primary advocate for the protection and preservation of the quality of the Lake water. As the recreational use of the Lake increases, so too does the threat to its pristine waters.

Invasive Species

Lake Placid faces the serious challenge of invasive species, non-native plants and animals that can crowd out native species.  Once they establish themselves in a lake, it is extremely difficult to remove them.  Variable-leaf Watermilfoil (milfoil) was first detected in Paradox Bay in 2009.  In 2019, divers hired by the SOA harvested more than 1,000 pounds of milfoil from the Bay.  Communities that fail to take persistent action to prevent and control invasive species suffer dire consequences:

  • Water becomes unsuitable for drinking, swimming and boating
  • Native plant diversity declines
  • Fish and invertebrate populations decline
  • Mosquito populations increase

These consequences have the combined effect of destroying the natural habitat of a lake and adversely impacting the vibrancy of the community. The SOA works with state and local governmental agencies and conservation organizations to prevent and control the invasion.

Septic Systems

It is recommended that septic systems be pumped out when the tank is 1/3 full, and are inspected annually by a licensed septic company, inspector, or plumber to make sure they are connected and working properly. Leach fields should have plenty of sunlight and be clean of leaves, fallen branches, and other debris.

To better protect the lake from exposure to excess nutrients and pollutants, the Town of North Elba passed the “Lake Placid Lake Septic System Inspection Law”. The law requires that all septic systems proximate to the lake be inspected every three years for year-round residences; every five years for seasonal properties; if there is reasonable cause to believe that a septic system is not functioning properly; and when the property upon which the septic system is located is conveyed to a new owner.

Failed systems cause sewage to seep into the lake. Sewage entering the lake is problematic for two reasons. The first is the obvious one in that it is our drinking water. The second reason is that it carries with it phosphorus, the primary nutrient that triggers algae blooms. A single failed septic system can cause a localized algae bloom on the lake. The collective contribution of many septic systems not performing properly can lead to lake wide declines in water clarity and quality. In the most extreme cases, harmful algae blooms (HABs) can form, posing threats to drinking water and recreation through the presence of dangerous toxins.

Through its Annual Pump-out Program, the SOA organizes and pays for a barge to reach lake access only camps, making it easy for members to maintain their septic systems at a greatly reduced price. Please refer to the SOA website for further information, or contact the SOA administration by phone or email.

Tap Water Testing

Lake Placid is one of the purest lakes on earth. Only 2.5% of the water on earth is fresh water, and of that only 1% is suitable for drinking. Lake Placid is included in that 1%, classified as AA-Special, the highest rating for water quality. It is a rare and beautiful resource that must be protected.

For generations, many shore owners have been drinking unfiltered water directly from the Lake. Other shore owners choose to install filtration systems to ensure high quality drinking water. For those who do, the minimum recommendation is a particulate filter with a .5-micron cartridge, followed by an ultraviolet filtration system.

Volunteers from the SOA perform tap water tests to help lakefront property owners to detect coliform and E. coli bacteria. State standards stipulate zero tolerance for both. When a positive test does occur, it is usually due to waterfowl or wildlife waste that has flowed near a water intake when a sample is drawn. Leaching from faulty septic systems can cause a positive test, so it is critical that shore owners diligently inspect their system for leaks and make necessary repairs.

Lake Water Testing

Placid Lake is the source of municipal drinking water for the Town of North Elba. The Village of Lake Placid operates a pumping station and water treatment plant adjacent to the State boat launch.

Many SOA members draw their drinking water directly from the Lake. Needless to say, the SOA has a long history of concern about water quality. As far back as 1911, the SOA retained professionals to provide guidelines for the protection of the Lake water from domestic wastewater generated around the Lake shore. The recommendations were adopted by the SOA and later became the responsibility of the Consolidated Board of Health of the Village of Lake Placid and the Town of North Elba to assure that these recommendations continue to be strictly practiced.

The Lake Placid Water Pollution Control Commission was formed in the early 1970s consisting of shore owners and Lake Placid Village trustees. This Commission secured the services of Cornell University to study the water quality. Samples of lake water are studied regularly and those findings – with respect to pH and alkalinity, plant nutrients, transparency and plankton population – are published in the Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program report available on our website.

The Village Water and Sewer Department tests the Lake water annually to ensure the absence of waterborne disease. They attest to the unique suitability of the Lake as a source of potable water. But because of the increasing population of the Lake shore and the corresponding strain from private septic systems, there is an increased risk of giardia. It is therefore advisable to treat all lake water used for consumption.

Steward Program

The SOA contracts with Paul Smith’s College to check for invasive species attached to boats entering the Lake at the DEC Launch, the Village Launch and the Decontamination Station.  The Program is administered by the Adirondack Watershed Institute of the College.

The Steward Program employs more than 100 stewards who monitor boat launches and decontamination stations across the Adirondacks.  The purpose is twofold: to educate the public about the spread of invasive species; and to remove invasive species from boats entering the lake. Stewards inspect boats seven days-a-week, Memorial Day through Labor Day.

The numbers reported by the Adirondack Watershed Institute underline the importance of the program.  In 2017, the Stewards inspected 5,059 boats coming from 135 different waterways.  2.2% of these boats failed inspection, and there were 22 instances of an invasive species found and removed from a boat about to launch into Lake Placid.  The invasive species consisted of variable leaf watermilfoil, Eurasian watermilfoil, water chestnut, curly-leaf pondweed and zebra mussels.  By 2018, 4,365 boats from 75 waterways were inspected. 18.6% failed the inspection.  There were eight instances of invasive species found and removed.

The Decontamination Station or Boat Wash is located next to the DEC launch and is available for everyone bringing any kind of boat into Placid Lake, free of charge.