Kai Mikkel Førlie 
Member since Feb 16, 2014



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Re: “Water Warrior: James Ehlers Is Lake Champlain's Loudest and Most Divisive Advocate

Excellent article!

As for Gov. Shumlin's alleged comment, and aside from its overtly racist undertones (particularly when uttered by a white guy), the fact that he apparently views an advocate for clean water as someone who needs to be brought into line speaks volumes. That one turn of phrase would seem to expose serious contradiction between his public persona (as manifested by his recent inaugural speech) and his private intentions.

Could it be that he's just not that into clean water?

Sure, clean water is an easy thing to stump on but like I've written elsewhere, delving into what it takes to really achieve it requires some serious soul searching. And I realize that being governor is no walk in the park but its a job that comes with certain base responsibilities, not the least of which is ensuring that the State's water supply isn't being compromised by nutrient pollution or contamination from industrial toxics. On those fronts we're currently 0 for 2 and so here's hoping that our governor shakes off whatever it is that's causing him to shun those with answers and that he instead starts offering up his support to same. Clean water isn't and should never be a political issue. So how sad it is when someone who insists on clean water gets characterized by so many as anything other than a hero.

Now, to all of those people who think that James is acerbic: be happy that you're not in the position of having to placate one of the ~750,000,000 people worldwide that don't have access to drinkable water. At least we can still drink our water. At least for right now. But how do you think the dynamic will change when the tables turn? How 'bout we don't go there?

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Posted by Kai Mikkel Førlie on 02/19/2015 at 2:43 AM

Re: “Burlington Telecom: From a Cloud of Litigation to a Campaign Storm

This is somewhat devastating - Councilor Jane Knodell is quoted as saying in relation to the Citigroup windup, ""I felt like we should have asked harder questions." Excuse me, but if there was ever an deal or issue that the council should have asked hard questions about it is this one. I am sure that folks elected both her and her fellow council members on the basis that they would do just that, ask the hard questions about the highly controversial BT. And now to find out that this wasn't done; why wasn't this done? I know that the council is overwhelmed by all of the various tasks it has in front of it but surely this one was one that demanded total focus? Sigh.

And, for the record, I am a proponent of efforts to "Keep BT Local":


Posted by Kai Mikkel Førlie on 02/02/2015 at 9:19 PM

Re: “How Not to Protect Children: Senate Bill 9

I'm all for trying to mandate mandatory reporting but in relation to the senate's bill I'd much rather see vastly expanded access to a) sex ed & male anti-violence curriculum in schools and society in general, b) ubiquitous family planning & abortion services, c) meaningful and good paying jobs and the creation of a mandatory certification program for anyone planing to have or otherwise expecting a child (with a built-in sensitivity component for expectant victims of sexual assault). The senate's plan largely feels like another wasted effort and one only designed to help kids a tiny bit while further growing the prison population. Its not tackling the root source of the problems that lead to child abuse and neglect.

Posted by Kai Mikkel Førlie on 02/02/2015 at 4:34 PM

Re: “EPA Leader Announces Small Lake Champlain Grant

More than three weeks have passed since EPA Administrator McCarthy announced the awarding of $67,000 to Burlington for the purposes of, as Seven Days staff writer Mark Davis put it, "...develop[ing] plans to reduce Burlington's impact on the lake," - plenty of time to decide how this money will be spent. We realize that its not much in the way of funding (although some highly effective sustainable sanitation and reuse programs have been seeded with far less) but we have to wonder what is being considered. Moreover, how many are aware of the recent RFP:


...regarding sludge dewatering.

So, in response to the EPA grant award and in light of the undoubtedly high value of the RFP, can the Burlington community expect to see...

...a widespread education campaign to educate city employees, residents and businesses on the direct role they play in polluting the lake accompanied by the adoption of performance-based codes ensuring that all new or retrofitted homes and businesses must meet zero discharge requirements when it comes to at least the big-tree nutrients (phosphorous, nitrogen and potassium)? Right now, the bulk of these nutrients (at least those not being released during CSO events) are bound up in the sludge that's collected from Burlington's three wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), the total quantity of which is being trucked to upstate New York. There it is being dumped on farmland and, very likely (if not almost assuredly) ending up in surface waters (even quite possibly in Lake Champlain). Some refer to the interstate sludge export program that Burlington is involved in as Chittenden County residents externalizing their costs to low-income people and ecologies located in rural farm country in another state. But if these nutrients are indeed finding their way back into the lake then what's really going on here? And wouldn't producing less sludge in the first place be the most cost effective approach to this controversial material?

...an associated pilot project to test the feasibility of promoting and incentivizing residents and businesses to install dry 'ecological' toilets in place of, or in parallel with, their flush counterparts? Flush toilets are a major source of the nutrients that find their way into our WWTPs (and into the Lake during CSO events or into the sludge that's washing into surface bodies of water) and also represent the single highest use of water in the home, roughly about a third of what's used indoors. What more economical and effective way is there to both reduce nutrient pollution and lower water usage then to stop dumping our excreta into sewers?

...an associated pilot project to test the feasibility of promoting and incentivizing the installation of onsite greywater systems and seasonal and/or year-round onsite rainwater harvesting and storage systems (for limited or unlimited domestic or manufacturing use)? Much of the washwater that a household or business produces can be safely used for onsite irrigation. Onsite greywater systems mimic the natural water cycle by allowing washwater to infiltrate back into the soil and percolate down into the water table, naturally cleaning the water on the way (for free). Likewise, enough water falls annually from the sky over Burlington in the form of rain to provide the majority if not all of the water used in the home or business. Why, then, are we not taking widespread advantage of this free resource? Plus, runoff produced from rain and snow events are another major source of nutrient pollution. So, why then are we not ensuring that water collected by roofs and roadways is kept from entering the lake? Isn't in far less expensive to engineer our city to allow for the infiltration of rainwater than to pay for the knock-on effects that this stormwater/rainwater/snow-melt exacts on the lake?

...an associated program to promote and incentivize high levels of water conservation, the thought here being to reduce the demand on the city's antiquated water delivery and wastewater processing systems so that what is delivered and what results from processing (read "effluent") are of higher quality, thus lowering the costs of maintaining these systems and reducing the associated impacts on the lake? Note: in terms of usage the average US resident uses three times the volume of water used by the average German resident (~150gal/day versus ~50gal/day). Isn't conservation always the cheaper option? Clearly, at the very least, there's room here for improvement.

Put simply, can we expect real and lasting solutions to the water quality problems that we face or just more of the same; IOW spinning in circles?

Posted by Kai Mikkel Førlie on 11/02/2014 at 9:14 PM

Re: “Public Water Systems Watch for Toxic Algae in Lake Champlain

Aleksandra Drizo - as a university researcher and sanitation professional, you should know better than anyone that bottled water is essentially unregulated (and the basis for one of the most corrupt marketing schemes of all time). Are you not deluding yourself in thinking that bottled water will somehow protect you? And are you also not concerned about the plastic bottles that you're drinking out of? Plus, you work for a company that provides technology to municipal wastewater treatment plants yet you opt for bottled water in your personal life? Wouldn't advocacy for a clean lake and a home filtration and/or rainwater harvesting and storage system be the better ways to go?

For more on these issues I highly recommend watching "Tapped", the recent documentary that contrasts, among other aspects, the bottled water industry against municipal providers:


Commissioner Mears - your statement that, "We have some of the highest quality drinking water you can get anywhere," isn't really saying much given that what your comparing it to - other municipal supplies and bottled water - are all very likely contaminated with the toxic products and byproducts of modern industry (and, meanwhile, no standards and/or safe limits exist for for the majority of the toxics that are in our drinking water). Are you not making this up as you go along?


And on the one hand you say that research into devising standards for cyanobacteria is important yet you follow that up by saying that, "It's not the kind of research that a small state like Vermont can afford to do." But, we have to ask, can we afford NOT to do it? This approach sounds all too familiar. We've been waiting years for new EPA standards related to sewage sludge but in their absence we continue to allow this toxic material to be dumped anywhere and everywhere across the state. How long before we take action ourselves on issues like these to protect Vermonters?

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Posted by Kai Mikkel Førlie on 08/14/2014 at 6:13 PM

Re: “Cheer Up! There's No Bad News in Shum-Land

Growth, growth, growth. Though it continually falls on deaf ears...perpetual growth on a finite planet is impossible. When are we going to come to terms with this reality? Everything else is just blah, blah, blah.

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Posted by Kai Mikkel Førlie on 08/03/2014 at 2:25 PM

Re: “A Feline Toilet-Training Tutorial

While this may appear a good idea, its actually the last thing that we should be advocating. WWTP's (Wastewater Treatment Plants) are ill equipped to handle the high levels of phosphorous and nitrogen already present in our wastewater without adding more in the form of cat excreta. A far better solution is to compost animal waste or abstain from pets altogether. So many of our streams, ponds and lakes are overwhelmed by excess nutrients - which leads to eutrophication and blue-green algae blooms...lets not make the problem even worse.

1 like, 13 dislikes
Posted by Kai Mikkel Førlie on 06/26/2014 at 7:01 PM

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