Letter to the editor: Organic dairies would protect the lake

Inadequately designed or antiquated wastewater treatment plants account for roughly 5 percent of the pollution in Lake Champlain. Upgrading or replacing these plants would require years and years and cost hundred of millions or even billions of dollars. When these plants are all upgraded, the pollution flowing into the lake from WWTPs would probably improve from 5 percent to 3 percent.
Storm water from storm drains and parking lots designed to channel water as quickly as possible into the nearest stream or river accounts for between 40-45 percent of the pollutants entering the lake. New storm drains and water gardens will need to be designed and will cost hundreds of millions of dollars and take years and years to install.
Redesigning and rebuilding the state’s wastewater and storm water systems can only be accomplished with taxpayer support.
Approximately 45-50 percent of the pollutants entering the lake come from conventional dairy farms. 135,000 cows produce as much manure as 4.3 million people and the vast majority of it goes untreated onto the ground along our rivers and streams in Addison and Franklin Counties. Unlike MWWTPs and Storm water infrastructure, which are essential components of life, conventional dairy farming is voluntary: we could stop it without taxpayer support.
Reducing the flow of nutrients from conventional dairy farms can be reduced by half in two years by converting all state dairy farms to organic. Farms housing in excess of 200 cows, which means 150-175 of the remaining 600 farms, some housing in excess of 2,000 cows, cannot comply with the pasture rule of the National Organic Program and therefore cannot produce organic milk. This means that approximately 80 to 90 thousand of the cows now in Vermont would have to be sold out of state or go to slaughter. Since according to your editorial all Vermonters share the goal of attaining clean water, the taxpayers might allocate funds to help ease the cost of transitioning the state’s 600 conventional farms, but if the state’s present failure to locate funding for the new “Clean Water Law” is any guide, there seems little likelihood that the taxpayers would do so.
James H. Maroney

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