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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Scott's Clean Water Funding Proposal Satisfies EPA Regulators

Posted By on Tue, Feb 12, 2019 at 2:22 PM

The town beach in St. Albans in summer 2016 - FILE
  • File
  • The town beach in St. Albans in summer 2016
Vermont is finally on track to meet federal funding requirements for the cleanup of the state's waterways.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency indicated in a letter Monday that a proposal put forth by Gov. Phil Scott’s administration passes muster. The determination is based on the assumption that the legislature will approve the funding plan.

Scott’s proposed state budget includes new funding for clean water from the estate tax, which is expected to provide $9 million or more each year.

The February 11 letter, signed by acting regional EPA administrator Deborah A. Szaro, is part of an ongoing effort to bring Lake Champlain and other Vermont waterways into compliance with the Clean Water Act. The state is under a federal order to reduce the amount of phosphorus that flows into the lake, which fuels smelly and potentially toxic algae blooms.

The federal stamp of approval marks a significant milestone for the Scott administration, which was warned last year that the state’s continued failure to come up with a long-term funding plan could jeopardize its "provisional" passing grade on water cleanup. Under the Vermont Clean Water Act of 2015, Scott's administration was required to release a long-term funding proposal by the end of 2017. The administration didn't come up with a proposal, frustrating last year's efforts to set up a funding source.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Middlebury College to Divest $55 Million From Fossil Fuel Companies

Posted By on Tue, Jan 29, 2019 at 6:03 PM

  • Courtesy of Divest Middlebury
Years of student pressure is prompting Middlebury College to phase out most investments in fossil-fuel companies, the school announced Tuesday.

The board of trustees for the private liberal arts college unanimously voted to divest January 26 as part of a sweeping sustainability plan dubbed Energy2028, according to a Tuesday press release.

Trustees had previously rejected students' divestment demands. The college's resistance was notable because scholar-in-residence Bill McKibben is a leading proponent of the international movement, as is the organization he and a group of Midd students founded in 2008, 350.org.

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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Burlington Officials Unveil $30 Million Fix for Wastewater Problems

Posted By on Thu, Sep 20, 2018 at 4:07 PM

Mayor Miro Weinberger - SASHA GOLDSTEIN
  • Sasha Goldstein
  • Mayor Miro Weinberger
After wastewater discharges plagued the City of Burlington all summer, officials on Thursday unveiled a plan intended to stanch the flow of dirty water into Lake Champlain.

It's not without a cost — $30 million. On Monday, the Burlington City Council will consider whether to put a related bond vote on the November ballot.

If Burlingtonians approve it, they can expect to pay $64 more annually for water by the time all the improvements are implemented within the next four or five years, Mayor Miro Weinberger said at a press conference in front of the city's main wastewater treatment plant.

“This is an opportunity for Burlington to take strong, decisive action to keep the lake the economic, cultural and recreational driver of our city and state that it has been since our founding,” said Weinberger, surrounded by city councilors, city workers and advocates for Lake Champlain.
Officials initially planned to come forward with a plan by December 1, in time to get a bond on the March Town Meeting Day ballot, but accelerated the timeline after repeated overflow problems.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

EPA Investigates Contaminated Soil in Burlington's Old North End

Posted By on Tue, Aug 7, 2018 at 11:12 PM

  • Luke Eastman
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is investigating soil vapors in the Old North End in Burlington after elevated levels of chemicals were detected in a home.

In July, testing at a house on the northern part of Elmwood Avenue revealed two chemicals at levels above federal limits, according to Michael Nahmias, an environmental analyst for the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. The department has not yet found the source, he added.

The chemicals are known as perchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE). PCE and TCE are commonly used for dry cleaning and can also be found in cleaning products and grease removers. The neighborhood was formerly home to two dry-cleaning businesses.

Exposure can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness and irritation, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Longterm exposure to PCE can lead to changes in memory and mood, and potentially to cancer.

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Chittenden Drop-Off Centers to Eliminate ReUse Zones

Posted By on Tue, Aug 7, 2018 at 8:05 PM

The ReUse Zone at the South Burlington drop off center - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • The ReUse Zone at the South Burlington drop off center
One man brought in a green plastic sandbox shaped like a turtle. Another went home with a cast-iron frying pan. It was business as usual at the ReUse zone in South Burlington Tuesday, but it won't be for much longer.

All-day scavengers and problems with prohibited items ranging from ammunition to prescription drugs prompted the Chittenden Solid Waste District to announce it will close the ReUse zones at the county's six drop-off centers, effective September 29.

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Friday, July 27, 2018

High E. Coli Levels Force Closures at Two Burlington Beaches

Posted By on Fri, Jul 27, 2018 at 6:11 PM

Blanchard Beach at Oakledge Park
  • Blanchard Beach at Oakledge Park
Burlington officials closed two city beaches on Lake Champlain Friday after water samples showed high levels of E. coli bacteria.

Red signs at Blanchard Beach in Oakledge Park and Leddy Beach in the city's North End warned visitors against entering the water. The closures came after a combined sewer overflow discharged thousands of gallons of dirty water into the Pine Street Barge Canal during an intense downpour Wednesday night. Authorities said the overflow was 90 percent stormwater "with a small wastewater fraction."

Robert Goulding, public information manager for the Department of Public Works, said the strong storm swept "animal waste, oils and litter" into the water, likely leading to the contamination.

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Thursday, July 26, 2018

Making a Stink: Man Protests Burlington's Wastewater Dumps

Posted By on Thu, Jul 26, 2018 at 11:56 AM

Dave Hungerford - SASHA GOLDSTEIN
  • Sasha Goldstein
  • Dave Hungerford
Updated at 5:28 p.m.

Dave Hungerford is sick of this shit.

After Burlington's wastewater treatment plant recently overflowed several times into Lake Champlain, Hungerford decided to take matters into his own hands. On Thursday morning, he stood in the rain on Williston Road in South Burlington holding a sign that read: "Burlington, Stop Dumping Shit Into Our Lake."

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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Utah Millionaire Abandons Plan for Futuristic Community in Vermont

Posted By on Wed, Jun 27, 2018 at 12:41 PM

A rendering of a NewVistas community
  • A rendering of a NewVistas community
Utah millionaire David Hall has decided not to pursue his vision for a high-tech sustainable community in the Sharon area after local opponents mounted vigorous opposition to the plan. Hall said he plans to sell the Vermont property he owns as soon as he can.

“I won’t pursue my dream there, and so I’ll exit as it’s possible,” Hall said in an interview with Seven Days Wednesday. Valley News first reported that he was abandoning the plan.

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Friday, May 25, 2018

New Chinese Environmental Policy Hits Vermont Recycling Programs

Posted By on Fri, May 25, 2018 at 12:47 PM

Recycling bins by the curb on Lake Street in Burlington - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • Recycling bins by the curb on Lake Street in Burlington
Recycling costs are going up for Chittenden County residents as the region's municipal waste authority adjusts to a sharp decline in the sale value of paper recyclables.

The Chittenden Solid Waste District increased the tipping fee — the charge for haulers who bring recycling to its Williston facility — on May 1. Another increase is likely soon, possibly in the next few months. Some haulers have already decided to pass the increase on to consumers.

The hikes come in response to the plummeting value of paper recyclables as China, which had been the world's largest consumer of recycling, ushers in strict new environmental regulations and stops accepting most mixed paper. The shift has put recycling programs around Europe and the U.S. into disarray. Vermont is also feeling the pinch.

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Friday, May 18, 2018

Bike Ferry Won't Run This Year Due to Causeway Damage

Posted By on Fri, May 18, 2018 at 4:43 PM

The Colchester causeway in April 2018 - SASHA GOLDSTEIN
  • Sasha Goldstein
  • The Colchester causeway in April 2018
The bike ferry that carries cyclists to and from South Hero won't operate this year due to storm damage to the Colchester causeway. Cycling organization Local Motion, which operates the ferry, announced Friday that the service has been canceled indefinitely.

Strong winds and heavy rains on May 4 caused sinkholes along the bike path that extends on a former rail line into Lake Champlain.

According to the Colchester town website, local officials have found that the storm also caused structural damage to a bridge on the causeway. The total cost of repairs has been estimated at $563,000.

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