Water Quality

Michael Colby, right, of Regeneration Vermont, testifies about what he says is lax state oversight of large dairy farms.
John Dillon / VPR

One of the largest farm businesses in the state expanded its operation and constructed a manure pit in Franklin County last summer — without a permit or state oversight.

Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

The Agency of Natural Resources is poking holes in a report that says Saint-Gobain was not responsible for some of the PFOA contamination in Bennington.

Chittenden Couty Sen. Chris Pearson says Vermont could improve enforcement of state water quality laws by allowing citizens to sue polluters.
Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

As environmental advocates grow increasingly worried about whether government regulators will adequately enforce new water quality rules, some lawmakers want to give regular citizens the authority to hold polluters to account.

Taps like this one at Academy School in Brattleboro were replaced after state tests discovered lead was leaching into the water.
Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

In November, the Department of Health announced that it was going to test 16 of the older schools around Vermont that get water from municipal sources to see if the pipes and fixtures in those buildings were leaching lead into the water. So far, they have detected unsafe levels of lead in some of the school buildings' water.

Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore and Gov. Phil Scott outline Vermont's phosphorus innovation challenge geared at reducing nutrient pollution in Lake Champlain.
John Dillon / VPR

Phosphorus is a basic building block of life. It’s in our bones, and it helps plants grow. But too much of this good thing is bad for places like Lake Champlain, where the nutrient fuels toxic algae blooms.

Gov. Phil Scott has suggested capturing and selling phosphorus before it gets to the state's waterways and lakes.
VPR File

In his budget address on Tuesday, Gov. Phil Scott suggested Vermont should turn lemons into lemonade by capturing the phosphorous flowing into our waterways - and selling it.

Would that work? We’re talking about whether the suggestion is feasible, how phosphorus could be separated out and what the economics of the idea might look like.

Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO and President Tom Torti, at the podium, joined environmental and municipal leaders last week to call for a per-parcel fee, on every property owner in Vermont, to fund clean water projects.
Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

Environmental advocates aren’t the only voices pressuring Montpelier to come up with a long-term funding mechanism for water quality projects. Members of the state's business community are also joining the call.

The Vermont Clean Water Act will hold more than 1,000 properties across the state to stricter stormwater standards, but environmental advocates say the Scott administration is trying to undermine some key provisions.
Peter Hirschfeld / VPR/File

Environmental advocates say the Scott administration is trying to dismantle key provisions in a 2015 law that set out rigorous new water quality standards across Vermont.

Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

The company that reached a $20 million settlement with the state over PFOA contamination in one area of Bennington says it can't be linked to pollution in another, disputed, region of town.

Upward view of the Vermont Statehouse
Angela Evancie / VPR File

Citizen legislators from across Vermont return to the Statehouse Wednesday morning for the second half of the legislative biennium, and many lawmakers are preparing for an unusually busy year in Montpelier.

A Jersey heifer peers through a door used to push manure into a manure pit.
Emily Corwin / VPR

A leading source of contamination in Vermont's lakes is nitrate pollution leeching from animal manure on dairy farms. Now VPR Investigative Reporter Emily Corwin has found those nitrates are also finding their way into groundwater and private wells across the state. 

An illustration of the nitrogen cycle.
ttsz / iStock

Farm runoff isn't just polluting Vermont lakes and streams. Nitrate from manure and fertilizer is also contaminating private drinking wells. VPR interviewed hydrogeologist Miles Waite of Waite-Heindel Environmental Management to help us understand how the nutrient gets into groundwater.

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe say they're reviewing the policies that each chamber uses to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct.
Peter Hirschfeld / VPR file

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe have outlined their key priorities for the legislative session that begins in January.

Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

The first municipal waterline extensions to homes contaminated with the chemical PFOA have been installed. State officials were in Bennington Monday marking the important milestone.

Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR file

The Environmental Protection Agency says it wants to better coordinate the nationwide response to soil and water contaminated with chemicals like PFOA.

Catherine Goldsmith, of Responsible Growth Hinesburg, stands by a stake marking the corner of a proposed supermarket. The Vermont Supreme Court reversed an approval of Hannaford's site plan due to a required setback from a canal behind her.
Amy Kolb Noyes / VPR

For seven years a citizen’s group has been fighting a proposed supermarket in the Chittenden County town of Hinesburg. The battle went all the way to the Vermont Supreme Court and it’s still not settled.

Gov. Phil Scott has suggested capturing and selling phosphorus before it gets to the state's waterways and lakes.
VPR File

Phosphorus runoff from farms and other sources is a nuisance for Vermont’s lakes. Phosphorus loading can lead to toxic algae blooms that threaten the health of our waterways. This is a well-known problem for Lake Champlain, but now Vermont’s second-largest body of water, Lake Memphremagog, is in the spotlight for a new plan developed to correct its water pollution issues.

The health department will test drinking water in 16 schools for lead, and the results could lead to a statewide testing program.

Sen. Christopher Bray is backing a per parcel fee on all property in Vermont to help fund water quality projects
courtesy / the Vermont Department of Health

The head of the Senate Natural Resources committee, Addison Sen. Christopher Bray, is backing a plan to boost funding for water quality projects throughout the state.

Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

Two years ago, then Gov. Peter Shumlin signed Vermont's most comprehensive clean water law. Now, many of the and a lot of the regulations included in that law are coming into play.