State News
June 26, 2015

Heavy rains lead to increase in sewage discharges

By Sarah Olsen, VTDigger.org

There have been almost as many sewage discharges reported across the state in the past 35 days as there were in all of the previous year, according to state data.

Twenty-five discharges have been reported since May 11, compared to the 31 reported between May 10, 2014, and May 10, 2015, according to the Vermont Wastewater Inventory of sewage overflows.

Two types of situations lead to sewage discharge or leaking: a spill and an overflow. A sewage spill is an accident, whereas an overflow isn’t an accident—it’s beyond the capacity of the system, said Laurie Adams, assistant director of the Burlington Department of Public Works.

The two largest sewage overflows since May 11 happened in Vergennes: 237,280 gallons on May 30 and 189,600 gallons on June 9, according to the respective incident reports. Both went into Otter Creek, which empties into Lake Champlain, said James Ehlers, executive director of Lake Champlain International.

One overflow in Hinesburg was caused by a blockage in the sewer line and resulted in approximately 1,000 to 10,000 gallons of sewage going into Patrick Brook, according to the incident report.

The cause of the recent increase in sewage discharges is the recent number of “pretty intense” rainfall events, according to David Mears, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Burlington had to discharge 126 gallons at a combined sewer overflow point on June 12, according to the inventory list. Burlington has had six overflows and/or spills in the past 35 days and all but two were under 150 gallons.

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