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DEC plans light flashes to limit birds at Lake George’s Million Dollar Beach to fight pollution

By Gordon Woodworth, Chronicle News Editor

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will use solar-powered “prism beacons” — 360-degree flashes of light from sunup to sundown — to try to deter gulls and ducks this summer from coming to Million Dollar Beach and swimming area in Lake George Village.

DEC says the popular beach will “safely” open for the season on Memorial Day Weekend.

The prism beacon plan is one outgrowth of a “comprehensive investigation into the cause of unsafe levels of bacterial contamination last summer.” The results are contained in the 37-page Lake George Beach Pollution Source Investigation Report.

DEC spokeswoman Erica Ringewald also tells The Chronicle, “DEC’s initial steps to control the number of gulls and ducks in the beach area include educating food vendors and customers not to purposefully or accidentally feed birds, giving the birds less incentive to be in the area.”

The DEC report said they will continue “extensive monitoring” this summer.

No plans to kill the birds

The state report adds, “Bird population reduction will be considered by DEC Operations staff as appropriate.”

But Ms. Ringewald adds, “At this time there is no plan to utilize lethal means to reduce the number of birds.”

She said prism light-emitting devices “have proven effective in other areas of the region” in deterring ducks and gulls and that they “are virtually undetectable to the human eye.”

Human waste implicated

The Lake George Beach Pollution Source Investigation Report also points to nearby storm and sanitary sewer systems, “possible unlawful and not yet identified discharges of wastewater to storm sewer systems, and two overflows from Town of Lake George wastewater sewer systems” as potential sources of human bacterial contamination, including E.coli.

DEC said it will continue to rake and clean the beach and that “cleaning of feces and removal of garbage/natural debris along nearshore areas prior to raking will be a priority.”

Dog Beach not blamed

The report says, “Though current data does not suggest that Dog Beach [just west of Million Dollar Beach] is a major source of bacteria…Dog Beach will also be groomed frequently to remove dog feces and prevent additional bacterial loading to Lake George.”

DEC notes, “It was observed that the sand…is of good quality and does not appear to be contributing to any water quality issues at this time.

“In the future, sand used to replenish the beach will be thoroughly washed and a grain size sufficient to provide a quality swimming experience and minimize turbidity caused by swimmers. In addition, the source of the sand will be as similar as possible to naturally occurring sand in the area.”

Million Dollar Beach will be open Memorial Day weekend, Saturday though Monday, May 27-29, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m daily. It will be open the next two weekends, on Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., before opening for the season full-time on Saturday, June 17, Ms. Ringewald said.

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