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Wastewater disposal rules spur controversy

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Posted on April 18, 2016 |
By John Flowers



MIDDLEBURY — Lawmakers and local residents discussed wastewater disposal regulations during the April 11 Legislative Breakfast at the American Legion Hall in Middlebury.

Addison farmer Paul Boivin said he believes a double standard exists between the country and urban areas, when it comes to wastewater disposal systems. He said folks in rural areas with inhospitable soils have to spend $40,000 to $60,000 for a mound system.

“You can’t do anything with any lot unless you have a working septic system,” he pointed out.

But Boivin contended that faulty septic systems are given a pass in urban areas, in the interest of preserving jobs and economic development.

“I read in the paper time and time again you’ve got almost every city in Vermont has development going on,” he said. “They build more houses and they still have poop going directly into the rivers and streams. Why is it in the country, we can’t do anything with that lot when there is no ability to handle the septic, but in the cities, they are not handling the septic (properly) right now and they are still allowing more development, more creation of jobs and more pollution?”

Sen. Chris Bray, D-New Haven, said he believes urban areas are coming under increased scrutiny for wastewater disposal. He noted last year’s Clean Water Act, which acknowledges the role that municipal wastewater treatment plants play in discharging phosphorous and impurities into the state’s waterways.

“We have wastewater treatment plants around the state that need upgrading,” Bray said. “The biggest challenge we have ahead of us is that significant wastewater treatment plants and storm sewer investments are really going to be needed in big cities and small.”

And Rep. Amy Sheldon, D-Middlebury, noted that the Vermont House recently passed a bill (H.674) that requires wastewater treatment plant operators to notify the Agency of Natural Resources and local health officers — within defined time limits — of combined sewer overflows, overflows from sanitary sewers and combined sewer systems, upsets or bypasses around or within the wastewater treatment facility during dry or wet weather conditions, and discharges of domestic, commercial, or industrial wastewater from the wastewater treatment facility to separate storm sewer systems.

“That is a way of bringing awareness to the issue to build interest and political will to address the very extensive problems that we do need to address,” Sheldon said. 

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