Talkin’ Code with Andrew Getty

Thank property owner associations for lakes we enjoy today

they’re back

Not the summer residents and visitors, the Dye Tester!!! Yep, it’s that time of year again. The Town of Webb Dye Tester is out along the shores and may be knocking on your door soon. Both the Chain of Lakes [1st – 4th and Old Forge Pond and channel] and Big Moose Lake have a cooperative arrangement with the Code Office to dye test all waterfront properties.

Between the two areas there are over 1,100 places to test. It is impossible to do them all every year. The goal is to test each one every 3–4 years.

This program was started many years ago, back in the 1960’s.

At that time, property owners worked independently from the town through their respective lake property owners associations. 

The need to test was evident because lakes were experiencing obvious problems.

In the Chain of Lakes, when conditions were just right, not only was the smell horrific, but there were plumes of waste floating around.

It was just plain nasty.

Property owner associations, using volunteers from the lake, began to go door to door using dye to track waste water from every camp.

Because of the diligent efforts of property owners associations through all these years, dye testing has become the standard.

Proper disposal of waste water is the single most important factor in maintaining a high quality of lake water, and the dye testing program has played a huge part in the Town’s goal of maintaining good water quality.

Still remembering doing a dye test with my Dad in the early 60’s at one particular camp on Big Moose Lake, the dye tablet was flushed down the toilet and within a few minutes the lake turned bright green.

That sure did catch the attention of the home owner because the entire family and all their guests were down on the dock swimming and skiing… then all of a sudden the water turned bright green right where they were swimming! Oh yeah, it caught their attention!!

The plume of dye covered and area half the size of a football field.

At first the property owner’s reaction was typical, denial and defensive.

However, it did not take too long for him to quiet down, now that everyone was getting out of the bright green water.

It was clear what was happening, raw sewage was piped directly into the lake.

It wasn’t but a few days before a system was designed and installed on the property and the old “straight pipe to the lake” was removed.

That place was not too different than many, many other camps.

The thinking was a direct line deep out into the lake, the farther out the better, would be okay. You know, the fish will eat it up.

The Town of Webb wasn’t alone with this problem; any developed lake most likely had raw sewer problems.

Somewhere in this office there is an old map, drawn and signed by an engineer around 1900, showing the proper installation of a direct sewer pipe from a hotel out into First Lake.

That sewer pipe was removed long ago, but it shows the thinking at that time.

Fortunately through the years, there continues fantastic cooperation with property owners to test for, and correct, all kinds of sewer discharge problems.

Rarely are those old direct pipes to the lake found anymore… Saturated old drywells and leach fields improperly placed and installed too close to the lake, failed or rusted out septic tanks, broken pump lines, poor stormwater management near leach fields are common issues today.

When the dye testing programs started back 50 years ago, it was a volunteer who went around the lake knocking on their neighbor’s doors.

This often put neighbor and the dye tester in a very difficult situation with each other, because often they were friends.

Although some people were good about it, there were plenty of upset people as well. it was difficult to say the least.

Not only were relationships strained between property owners, there was the lack of enforcement powers when needed.

Peer pressure always seemed to work pretty well, still does even in today’s world!

But when someone refuses to correct a true problem, the volunteer dye tester ultimately has no authority.

Our greatest resource in the Town of Webb is the water… the lakes, streams, rivers and wetlands.

With the vision of our forefathers, the support of lake associations, the willingness of property owners to do the right thing, the support of the Town Board and elected officials, the dye testing program will continue to provide one level of oversight regarding failing or improper septic systems along the shorelines.

Everything begins with awareness, knowledge, understanding and action.

Share Button