Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Slayton: Clean Water

The sky was deep blue and the air was cool and fresh as I paddled the Lamoille River with leaders of the Vermont River Conservancy not long ago. We navigated splashy little rips and long stretches of winding flatwater, and survived the one significant rapid, Ithiel Falls, without a single dunking. Then we pulled up for lunch on a tiny, evergreen-topped island right next to a deep, clear swimming hole.

It was an idyllic spot. The river was clean and cold, we were happy and well-fed, and our spirits were as high as the blue sky arching overhead.

Still, I couldn’t help thinking back to what the Lamoille and other Vermont rivers had been some 40 years ago. They were open sewers, and they were far from our first choice for swimming spots.

But then came the 1972 Clean Water Act, which mandated sewage treatment plants and put an end to straight-piping along streams and rivers throughout Vermont. After that, every year the rivers got cleaner and more inviting, and today they are a delight – in addition to being one of Vermont’s most important summer attractions.

However not all of our waters are clean and clear. Some still contain trash, agricultural runoff and manure, even wastewater and sewage. As a result, our most spectacular water, Lake Champlain, is struggling. Beaches there are now often closed because of pollution and algae blooms.

One of the environmental successes of the last Legislature was the passage of Act 64, which aims at a cleanup of the lake and other waters of the state. But almost as that act was being passed in Montpelier, sewage overflows in communities near the lake dumped hundreds of thousands of gallons of sewage into its tributaries.

So, satisfying as the legislative victory was, it’s obvious that there’s still a long way to go to clean up Champlain and our other damaged waters.

Act 64 basically sets up a process for that cleanup. It’s a framework and a commitment – both a financial commitment and a policy commitment – for going forward. However, much of the actual cleanup is still several years and many policy decisions away away.

Anyone who fishes or swims or paddles needs to keep our state officials on course and insist that the promise of Act 64 is fulfilled and augmented in the years ahead.

While we should all be grateful for its passage, we should also remain alert and diligent to assure that its commitments are fulfilled.

Tom Slayton is a longtime journalist, editor and author who lives in Montpelier.
Latest Stories