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Downstream: Cleaning Up Vermont's Waters

In 2015, the Vermont legislature passed a comprehensive water quality bill and the Environmental Protection Agency issued long-awaited pollution reduction targets for Lake Champlain - the state's largest body of water.

From roofs and roads to forests and farms, many sources contribute to water pollution.  VPR provided an in-depth look at the sources and the solutions to water pollution in Vermont. Our series of programs, interviews and news reports aired between Aug. 24 and Sept. 3, 2015, and included the following:

Vermont Edition: Unpacking The Lake Champlain Cleanup Plan, Aug. 26, 2015

The state of Vermont and the EPA are collaborating on a 20-year plan to reduce the phosphorous running into Lake Champlain by more than 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.

News Interview: New Clean Water Rules May Mean Tough Choices For Some Small Farmers, Aug. 31, 2015

Vermont’s small farms have always been subject to state clean water standards, but now the state’s near 7,000 small farms are facing a new reality: farm inspections.

For the first time, small farms will have to certify with the state and undergo routine farm inspections to make sure they're doing everything they can to keep pollutants out of the water.

News Report: Vermont's 'Crumbling' Underground Water Infrastructure Demands Expensive Repairs, Sept. 1, 2015

Even as state and federal officials direct new money and staffing to water quality efforts across the state, the networks of pipes that bring water to and from Vermont homes and businesses are crumbling beneath their feet.

In some places, pipes that are more than 100 years old are causing major problems, but officials simply don't have the resources to replace them.

State officials say some of these problems can be addressed through the battery of new water quality efforts, but others will require funding that simply isn't available right now.

News Report: Fixing Vermont's Roads: Water Pollution Hidden In Plain Sight, Sept. 2, 2015

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.

Nearly one-fifth of the phosphorous flowing into Lake Champlain comes from urban areas, and roads contribute about half of that, with the remainder coming from rooftops, parking lots and lawns.

Reducing runoff from Vermont’s 14,000 miles of paved and gravel municipal roads is a monumental task.

But the new Vermont Clean Water law requires that municipalities across the state come up with a plan to retrofit the biggest water pollution offenders.

News Interview: Tiny Plastics Could Cause Big Problems In Vermont's Waters, Sept. 3, 2015

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.    

We speak with Sherri Mason, a professor of Chemistry at the State University of New York at Fredonia, who explains the ways that small pieces of plastic can cause big problems.

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