Lake Champlain

Taylor Dobbs / VPR

Members of a Burlington homeowners association will soon be able to enjoy the association’s private beach without fear that they’re swimming in a neighbor’s excrement.

A private contractor is fixing an improper pipe connection in Burlington Wednesday that caused a home’s sewage to flow untreated into Lake Champlain for as many as 15 years. City officials discovered Sept. 2 that the home's wastewater, which is supposed to be connected to sewer pipes that lead to a treatment plant, was instead flowing to a stormwater pipe that flows directly into Lake Champlain.

Courtesy of Community Sailing Center

Sailing is often an expensive sport, and that means it’s not always accessible to everyone who might be interested. But the Community Sailing Center on Lake Champlain in Burlington is working hard to give all kids the opportunity to get out on the water. 

Rutland is one of more than a dozen Vermont municipalities with a combined sewer system. When the city's water treatment system is overloaded, untreated sewage and runoff flows out of this pipe into a local creek.
Taylor Dobbs / VPR File

Vermont lawmakers met with local and state officials Tuesday to try to figure out how to slow the flow of raw sewage into the state’s rivers and lakes.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR

A Burlington home connected to the wrong city pipe has been fueling a public health hazard on a private beach in the city’s New North End all month, and officials don’t know when the problem started.

Burlington Public Works Director Chapin Spencer says that a wastewater line coming from a home in the New North End was connected to the city’s stormwater pipe instead of a sewer main.

In that area of town, Spencer said, the underground pipe networks for stormwater and wastewater are separate, “so the stormwater pipe goes to Lake Champlain.”

In response to requests from the public, the Environmental Protection Agency has extended the deadline for public comments on its new pollution reduction targets for Lake Champlain.

In an announcement Wednesday, the agency said that “[i]n response to requests for additional time, EPA is extending the comment period for 30 additional days, until October 15, 2015.”

The agency released the plan August 14, initially opening a 30-day comment period.

Charlotte Albright / VPR File

The state Agency of Agriculture is moving to require more stringent controls to cut pollution from farms in the Missisquoi Basin of Lake Champlain.

The shallow bay in the northwest part of the lake is often choked with algae blooms in the summer. Those blooms are fueled in part by phosphorus run-off from farms.

Alford et al. / Lake Scientist

While much discussion of water pollution in Vermont focuses on excessive nutrients, there’s another problem pollutant in our waters. 

Tiny bits of plastic – coming from everyday sources such as degraded plastic bags and flecks of fleece jackets – are seeping into Lake Champlain. Often smaller than the period at the end of this sentence, the plastics may seem inconsequential, but scientists say they carry chemicals, are being eaten by fish and moving up the food chain.    

Kathleen Masterson / VPR

One of the challenges to stemming the flow of pollution into Lake Champlain is that so much of runoff comes from disparate sources across the vast watershed. And one source of water pollution is hidden-in-plain-sight: roads.

Sometimes Vermont's sewage plants dump sewage into rivers and lakes. And they're allowed to. What's up with that?

Vermont Department of Health

The hot and humid dog days of summer are usually perfect swimming weather — but that’s not true in St. Albans Bay.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR File

In a packed ballroom in South Burlington's DoubleTree Hotel, a well-known scientist studying Lake Champlain stood up and told state officials that some of the targets they've set to reduce pollution into the lake simply cannot be reached.

Toby Talbot / AP

Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Vermont state government released new targets for reducing pollution in Lake Champlain and a detailed plan for how the state would reach those targets. But the plan is already attracting some criticism.

State officials hope that Clean Water Week, which starts on Aug. 21, will celebrate Vermont waterways and the efforts underway to clean them up.
Ric Cengeri / VPR/file

The state of Vermont and the EPA are collaborating on a 20-year plan to reduce the phosphorus running into Lake Champlain by more thirty percent. That includes federal lake pollution targets and the state's plan for how to get to those goals.

We're looking at the new targets, the plan to hit them, and whether it will all be enough to keep the lake clean for coming generations.

Jon Gilbert Fox / Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center

The blue-green algae blooms invading Lake Champlain this summer can cause nasty stomach problems and skin irritation — and even liver damage in people who accidentally swallow the water. But researchers say there might be longer-term health consequences for people who come into contact with the blooms. 

Kathleen Masterson / VPR

About 40 percent of the nutrients that run off into Lake Champlain come from farms. But surprisingly, about half that manure produced in the state actually comes from small farms. In the case of dairies, that’s defined as operations with fewer than 200 cows.

Angela Evancie / VPR File

More than two-thirds of the problematic phosphorus overload in Lake Champlain comes from Vermont. To clean up its act the state recently signed Act 64, the Vermont Clean Water Act. It tackles runoff coming from sources varying from roofs and roads to forests and farms.

There have been a lot of sewage spills lately and the state reports them on a website when it becomes aware of an overflow from a municipal sewage system. But it can be really hard to find out where they are, and the state has no real time alert to let people know when a spill has happened and water might be contaminated.

VPR has been reporting on this problem all summer, so our own web developer Sara Simon got on the case and she's created a twitter bot. It is on Twitter and known as Dirty Water VT.

A paper recycling facility in Sheldon Springs dumped 173,000 gallons of "untreated industrial process wastewater" into the Missisquoi River between Friday, August 14 and Tuesday August 18, according to state records.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR File

State and federal officials announced new pollution reduction targets for Lake Champlain Friday as well as how the state plans to meet those targets.

James Boase / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Every fisherman has a story about the "one that got away." But Chet MacKenzie is dedicated to making sure that this particular species of fish in Lake Champlain doesn't get away – or disappear.