Stormwater Improvements Benefit Lake Champlain: Communities Work Together to Improve Water Quality

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Friday January 03, 2014

For more than ten years, several Chittenden County communities, including South Burlington, have worked together to create and operate the Regional Stormwater Education Program (RSEP). This organization is a collaborative effort of nine municipalities, the University of Vermont, the Vermont Agency of Transportation, and the Burlington International Airport. The central mission of RSEP is to educate the public on how stormwater affects our streams and Lake Champlain and the simple things we can all do to improve water quality.  Together, we have been able to do much more than we would have if efforts were town-by-town.

RSEP’s efforts have included extensive community outreach and education to residents on key behaviors that anyone could do: picking up pet waste, reducing the use of fertilizers and pesticides, testing soils to determine if fertilizers are even necessary, and advocating greener practices for car washing.

We are happy to report that progress is being made and the overall results are promising. In 2013 we surveyed more than 400 residents of the nine RSEP member towns. More than 80% of those surveyed now pick up pet waste compared to only 62% in 2003.  Pet waste can be a significant source of bacterial contamination to our streams and Lake Champlain.  Similarly, only 29% of the citizens surveyed use fertilizers on their lawn, down from 50% in 2003.  We also saw an increase in soil testing to determine whether lawns and garden even need fertilizer applications.  Testing soil for fertilizer needs saves money, but also prevents unnecessary nutrients from entering our local waters. Your efforts have resulted in significant progress.  Additionally, over the last few years the stormwater utility and department of public works have been working to improve management of stormwater runoff in South Burlington. The stormwater utility now maintains 37 stormwater treatment practices throughout the City.  Also, street sweeping and storm drain cleaning has removed 2,455 cubic yards of material from our streets and storm drains since 2008 (Table 1).  This material, and the associated pollutants and nutrients, would otherwise have washed into our streams and Lake Champlain. We applaud your ongoing commitment to improving our water resources, and remain committed to working with you to advance these common goals.

To that end, in 2014 and beyond we will be providing you more information on how you can further protect waterways by using rain gardens, rain barrels and reducing impermeable surfaces on your property.  As spring and summer rainstorms become more intense, these actions can “Slow the Flow” of stormwater so our local waterways don’t become excessively eroded and/or clogged with silt and other trash.

The RSEP board and I would like to thank the people of South Burlington for their stewardship of our streams and Lake Champlain. We encourage anyone who wants to learn more about what you can do to keep our City’s streams and Lake Champlain clean to visit

 SOURCE: Tom DiPietro Jr., Deputy Director of Public Works/City of South Burlington Regional Stormwater Education Program/Steering Committee Member