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Nestled in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, Mirror Lake is in the center of the Village of Lake Placid, home of the 1932 and 1980 winter Olympics. The total area of the village is just one and a half square miles, of which almost 10% is water, making Mirror Lake a year-round tourist destination and a recreation lovers’ Mecca for every kind of water sport.
For area residents, the lake is far more than a recreational resource, it is also a major contributor to the local economy and serves as the village’s cultural centerpiece. Recognizing the importance of protecting the ecology and beauty of Mirror Lake, its shores and watershed, concerned citizens formed the Mirror Lake Watershed Association (MLWA) in 1997 and joined the New York State Federation of Lakes Association.
Through volunteers’ efforts, the MLWA began collecting water samples of Mirror Lake through a program administered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. In addition to water sampling and monitoring the watershed environment, MLWA volunteer community efforts also include storm drain stenciling, which alerts residents and visitors of locations where street debris drains directly into the lake; doggie bag dispensaries, which are set up along a popular walking trail around Mirror Lake; and the distribution of educational posters and brochures.
Also as part of their educational outreach, MLWA members contribute articles and information about Mirror Lake and water quality issues for publication monthly in the Lake Placid News.
Recognizing the impact that contaminated stormwater flows can have on the environment, the MLWA applied for and received a grant to create the Mirror Lake Stormwater Action Plan.
A key portion of the plan focused on the issue of urban runoff: “Stormwater management is a key component to preserving the water quality of the lake, as well as preserving its habitats for plant and animal life. Stormwater management also reduces flooding of roads and properties, reduces soil erosion and controls pollutants.”
This action plan provided the groundwork to improve stormwater conditions throughout the watershed area. During the planning process, MLWA included village board members, which helped to educate them on the overall importance of stormwater management.
The perfect opportunity to implement part of the action plan arose when a new water and sewer line project launched along the northwestern portion of Mirror Lake Drive. Although the village’s board was not required to install stormwater treatment systems with the project, forward-thinking officials realized they could take immediate steps to improve the water quality of Mirror Lake.
The village hired Ivan Zdrahal Associates, a multi-disciplined engineering firm, for the project. Ivan Zdrahal, P.E., had a vested interest in the project not only as the engineer but also as a part-time resident of Lake Placid and member of the community.
Zdrahal was familiar with various stormwater best management practices, including Vortechs Systems, a site-specific technology from Vortechnics, which he had learned about in a third party study conducted in Lake George, N.Y.
Zdrahal became interested in the successful use of the Vortechs Systems in Lake George because of the striking similarities between the two communities, including the environmental characteristics and watershed landscapes.
Like the Mirror Lake community, Lake George also serves as a popular tourist destination point. From the 1970s onward the area experienced rapid development and commercialization resulting in deterioration of the watershed area and overall water quality of the lake.
In 2001 the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee published a comprehensive third party study on the use of Vortechs Systems and submitted it to the New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee. This study of the model 11000 Vortechs System on a 4.5-acre site found a removal efficiency rate of 88% for all total suspended solids (TSS).
Over the course of the 11-month study, 13 storms were monitored and included 304 days of sampling. The Vortechs System captured more than eight tons of sediment with an average particle size of 500 microns. The study concluded with a recommendation that the village of Lake George consider installing additional Vortechs Systems in the watershed area where erosion and sedimentation have been identified as nonpoint source pollution. As a result, the Lake George Stormwater Management Plan served as a valuable resource for MLWA and village board members when drafting the Lake Placid/North Elba local stormwater management ordinance because both communities have similar environmental conditions.
“The village’s board was progressive in including the Vortechs Systems for the drainage portion of this project,” said Zdrahal. “They did more than they had to. They could not reconstruct the entire highway but wanted to intercept whatever discharge possible,” he added.
Constructed from precast concrete and marine grade aluminum, the system uses a combination of vortex motion and flow controls to effectively remove pollutants from stormwater and prevent resuspension and washout in any storm intensity. Custom designed to fit each site’s unique parameters the system has the most comprehensive lab, field and third party testing in the industry.
According to Zdrahal, “the shallow installation and easy maintenance were important design features when deciding to specify the system.” Installation costs remained low due to the shallow horizontal design of the system and due to the fact that the system requires no onsite assembly time by the contractor. Zdrahal, MLWA and village board members all agreed that the system was the right solution for their stormwater treatment needs.
Sizing of the systems was based on 80% removal of TSS on a net annual basis. In most applications, the 80% TSS removed are required by the state of New York for stormwater treatment devices. Zdrahal worked with Vortechnics design engineer Scott Gorneau to specify four Vortechs Systems, two online 7000 models and two offline 11000 models, all of which were installed along the banks of the northwestern portion of the lake between Mirror Lake Drive and the water’s edge. The western lakeside area consists of dense development with a high concentration of impervious surfaces and heavy winter sanding.
These factors, combined with the steep topography of the watershed, created a number of challenges in the specification process. The online and offline systems were designed to treat a total of 57 cu ft per second of stormwater flow from a drainage area of 32-acres under post developed conditions.
Bill Billerman, MLWA board chairman, applauded Lake Placid elected officials for allocating funds for the Vortechnics stormwater treatment devices. He noted that village officials did more than what was merely required by law when addressing stormwater treatment concerns and were innovative in their efforts to ensure preservation of Mirror Lake. It was important to all involved in the project that Mirror Lake remained a place for residents and visitors to enjoy for not only their lifetimes but also beyond.
Currently, the village of Lake Placid is working on another improvement project along the banks of Mirror Lake that will incorporate a Vortechs System. Through this project and the other many efforts of MLWA, the waters of Mirror Lake will remain clear and healthy.