How many people know what happens to water after it swirls down the drain?  Wastewater treatment is the “hidden utility.”   Yet we all rely on it to protect our health, recreation, and the environment.

In Vermont, ninety publicly owned treatment plants transform billions of gallons a year of wastewater from residences, businesses, and stormwater systems into clean, safe water.  Even those with septic systems are part of the process, as their septage is usually transported to treatment plants.

Before wastewater treatment, rivers ran polluted, fish died, swimming was dangerous, and disease was close at hand.  In 2007, theBritish Medical Journalnamed sanitation “the greatest medical advance since 1840.”  Wastewater treatment is a cornerstone of public health and protection of the environment.

On May 23rd, to celebrate water quality, many wastewater treatment plants throughout the state are hosting open houses from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm, encouraging citizens to learn about this essential part of modern society.  This is the firstannual Vermont “Water Quality Day.” Participating plants will welcome anyone, offering tours, refreshments, colorful “Water Recycles” posters, and more – all for free.  See the list of participating plants atwww.gmwea.org.

Water Quality Day is sponsored by Green Mountain Water Environment Association (GMWEA), Chittenden Solid Waste District (http://www.cswd.net/),North EastBiosolids and Residuals Association (http://www.nebiosolids.org, and participating facilities in Troy, Burlington, Montpelier, Middlebury, Milton, Windsor, Bellows Falls, and Brattleboro with more facilities being added.

In the midst of growing debate about protecting Lake Champlain and other waterways, wastewater treatment facilities and the professionals who staff them are quietly going about their jobs on the front lines of water quality protection.  Wastewater treatment plants are part of the core solutions for many of the most critical environmental issues in the news:

-         Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) programs mandated by U. S. EPA – policy solutions for furthering cleaner waters;

-         Pharmaceuticals and other traces of chemicals in the environment;

-         Managing nutrients and curbing phosphorus runoff that affects Lake Champlain and other water bodies;

-         Act 148, the universal recycling law, which requires recycling of organic residuals;

-         Biosolids management and DEC consideration of regulatory changes; and

-         Climate change, including efficient ways to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adaptations to larger storm events like Tropical Storm Irene.

Our public wastewater treatment plants play a significant part in addressing each of these issues.

On May 23rd, open house visitors will witness the path wastewater takes from the sewer pipe to discharge of clean water and treated, recyclable solids.  Wastewater treatment is a biological process, driven by trillions of microbes that clean water naturally, making it safe for the environment.  It is a process designed to work every day, all day, to keep Vermont clean.  When they see this process in action, kids and adults marvel; they never thought something so “gross” could be so fascinating. 

Everyone is invited to learn more.  Join the Water Quality Day celebration at your local plant.  Seewww.gmwea.orgor call Mary Ellen Parkman, GMWEA Executive Director,802-272-3740 or Ned Beecher, NEBRA, at 603-323-7654 for more details.

Planning Department Staff

Victor Sinadinoski, Director of Planning & Economic Development
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Amanda Pitts, Zoning Administrator
Health Officer/Service Officer/E911 Coordinator
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Roger Dickinson, Deputy Health Officer 
(Evenings & Weekends)
(802) 373-7135

Sheila Mooney, Planning Assistant
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