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Opinion: Everyone must do their part to combat water pollution

This letter is in response to the community forum “Water pollution: Don’t just blame farmers,” by Emerson Lynn in the July 28 edition of the Independent.
The Conservation Law Foundation filed a petition with the Vermont Department of Agriculture asking them to require farmers in the Missisquoi basin to implement certain management practices like cover cropping, grassed waterways, buffer strips and manure incorporation. But they are not just targeting farmers; they are working on urban runoff too.
Last spring the CLF filed a petition with the EPA New England Region asking them to require businesses to control stormwater runoff. (The EPA did not grant the petition for the entire region, but decided to look at one watershed at a time.)
The idea that someone is “blaming” us for pollution is a predictable response any time the cleanup of a water body is undertaken. People’s pride is hurt when they are told they are causing a problem. Suddenly the problems that others are causing become glaringly obvious, and finger-pointing becomes rampant. The only way to deal with it is to make sure everyone does their fair share, even if they only contribute a small amount. No one wants to feel they are making an effort when others are getting away scot-free.
Polluted runoff comes from every parcel of land, any one of which may seem small, but taken together they have a real impact. Think of a snowflake, or a single stitch in a quilt, or a single voice in a choir. By themselves they are tiny and negligible, but when there are a lot of them, they create something major: a blanket of snow, a warm bed covering, or a room full of music. That’s why all of us need to do our part. And not only in the Lake Champlain basin. All water bodies, including the Connecticut River and our smaller lakes, need help.
I agree with one of the points in the article, and that is the need for more staff to help with technical advice and inspections. This applies to all sources of non-point pollution, not just farms. The road commissioners at a meeting I attended had the same request: Have someone come and talk to us about what’s needed and the best way to achieve it, then come back and see how we’re doing.
Whether the rules are mandatory or voluntary, without this human element, not much is going to happen.
Chris Robbins
Middlebury

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