Glyphosate: Increasing phosphorus runoff and toxic too?
SAAWA has been looking at work done on the effects of the broad-spectrum herbicide glyphosateand the damage its increasing use may have created in our watershed. Sold under the name Roundup, but also used in other herbicide formulations, farmers and property owners use glyphosate for weed control. Concerns are being raised not only regarding the toxic potential of this substance, but also regarding the effect that surfactants in the glyphosate solutions have on speeding delivery of phosphorus and other nutrients into the lake. Studies are being done around Lake Erie which seem to connect the use of glyphosate to a dramatic increase in nutrient runoff. In our area, densely planted with corn, this is a great concern. We believe this is a subject that has been largely ignored, despite widespread use in our watershed, and the Board is working to bring attention to what is potentially a huge problem in our area.
Food for thought...
From an article in Vermont Digger by Michael Colby and Will Allen: SAAWA has been raising this issue for some time now. We are not anti-farm, and there are many farmers out there trying to do the right thing, but the rise of big farming in our area has certainly not been compatible with clean water. We see it daily. Not only that, it does not seem profitable for the farmers. This is a discussion that needs to be had.
Vermont agriculture exists in what seems to be two parallel universes, one in our minds and the other in reality. When people are asked to think about or imagine Vermont farming, they’ll inevitably mention grass and pastures and grazing cows, all with a perfect blue sky and just the right puffy clouds. It’s a well-marketed image, and comes attached to flavors like Cherry Garcia and slogans like “farmer owned.”
But the reality is much different. Because a vast majority of Vermont’s agriculture – more than 70 percent — is all about commodity-driven, nonorganic dairy production, where GMO crops dominate, cows are on concrete, gorged and fully dosed with an array of pharmaceuticals, fields are bathed in toxic pesticides, and our waterways are declared impaired as a result of the nitrogen and phosphorus-rich farm runoff.
Green Mountain Power
Manure Digester Update:
SAAWA met with representatives from Green Mountain Power in June to express our concerns regarding the proposed manure digester on Dunsmore Road. At that time, GMP was not able to fully answer our concerns regarding whether the digester will contribute to cleaner water in the Bay or simply create a situation enabling more cows and corn field runoff.
We remain concerned about spills at this sensitive location (a compromised waterway, Jewett Brook, feeding directly into the Bay ) and feel trucking in additional organic matter (food waste from other sources in Franklin County) does not seem like a good idea. At this time, GMP has no specific plans for removal of processed phosphorus from the watershed. They agreed to provide us with more information about safety precautions and process but we have not received it yet. It is our understanding that the project has been suspended pending further engineering review.
We were able to express our concerns to GMP that this is a large investment in big farming, which has great potential to adversely impact the Bay.
SAAWA has concerns about the multi-million GMP digester project
proposed for Dunsmore Road. Our main concern is that clean water
benefits for St. Albans Bay are unclear. Potential for spills is
worrisome and the location is problematic.
Jewett Brook, which is directly adjacent to the proposed site, is
already an impaired waterway which shows the negative effects
(choking weeds, blue green algae blooms, dirty water) from nearby
area runoff. It is not clear that this project will improve the water
quality in any way and, in fact, has the potential to make it much
worse by bringing in additional manure and food waste from a 50
mile radius. We are seeking more information on this issue and
have submitted our concerns to the PSB.
Vermont TMDL Plan Positve,
Still Needs Watching
SAAWA has seen more movement this year in the effort to clean
up St. Albans Bay and Lake Champlain than any year in the
last 20. SAAWA leadership and all the members of SAAWA
should be proud of our contribution to this effort.
SAAWA has four main goals. We strive to:
1. Bear witness to the situation on the ground and clearly,
loudly speak the truth;
2. Directly improve water conditions in the Bay;
3. Lobby for more aggressive regulatory action;
4. Be in the vanguard as to what efforts should be undertaken by regulators to clean up the lake.
What is the TMDL?
The EPA has rewritten the TMDL for Lake Champlain, which is the plan for how much pollution, in our case phosphorus, can enter the lake and still have acceptable water quality. TMDL stands for total maximum daily load.
Originally written in 2002, it has governed the water quality improvement efforts. The Conservation Law Foundation sued the Federal Government o overturn it, viewing it as inadequate. We were one of the few voices to support the CLF. As a settlement to that suit, the EPA agreed to revise the plan which is in the final approval phase. The new TMDL will govern the water quality improvement efforts in the next few years. The new TMDL is now almost universally recognized as a watershed (no pun intended) moment in the lake cleanup efforts.
Weed Harvesting Expands
With Addition of Small Harvester
SAAWA again conducted weed harvesting in the Bay during the summer of 2015. In addition to annual funding from the Towns of St. Albans and Georgia, and the City of St. Albans; SAAWA received $5,000.00 from the St. Albans Rotary Club and an $11,500.00 grant from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation Aquatic Nuisance Control Grant-in Aid . The purpose of the grant was to help fund mechanical weed harvesting in St. Albans Bay by hiring two additional employees to operate and maintain the two weed harvesters and tractor. A second weed harvester was purchased from the Town of Franklin for $3,000.00.
SAAWA is focused on real, in-lake cleanup measures, as well as pressing for better land-use practices in the watershed. We are currently exploring the addition of a shoreline conveyor to make weed harvesting more efficient, methods of transporting weeds farther from the watershed, and better ways to combat blue-green algae which recent studies increasingly show may be a serious health hazard.
Download SAAWA Weed
Weed harvesting improves water quality and clarity by removing
excess weeds, increasing water circulation, and reducing conditions
that contribute to algae blooms. In addition, it is the only activity
currently occurring which reduces phosphorus already in the