Green Mountain Power Manure Digester Update:
2017 Update: SAAWA is please that Green Mountain Power has stepped away from this project, and we appreciated having a chance to express our concerns regarding this important local area. At this time, it looks like the digester project has been cancelled.
2016 Update: SAAWA met with representatives from Green Mountain Power in June about 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.
Proposed Green Mountain Power Manure Digester:
Benefits to St. Albans Bay Water Quality Unclear
Bringing the Landfill to the Lake?
SAAWA is attempting to learn more about the
GMP eFarm digester project proposed for Dunsmore
Road location. The proposed site, which would serve
the Bourbeau and Bessette farms, is adjacent to
Jewett Brook which is an impaired waterway that
strongly impacts St. Albans Bay. The digester, part
of the :"Cow Power" plan, would turn manure from
the farms and food waste from the area into methane
for production of electrical power.
At this time, while SAAWA is not opposed to a
digester per se but we feel there are many questions
which should be answered before this project should
go ahead. We also feel the potential for spills has not
been addressed, the location is perilously close to
a direct tributary of St. Albans Bay, and the necessity
for increasing amounts of manure and food waste
(which apparently will be brought into this sensitive area from a 50 miles radius) as
fuel may create new problems that could negate any clean water benefits.
SAAWA Letter to the PSB (February 2016):
Dear Vermont Public Service Board:
We, the Board of Directors for the St. Albans Area Watershed Association (SAAWA), are writing you today about Green Mountain Power's (GMP) proposal for a methane digester on the Dunsmore Road, in St. Albans Town. As a group with an environmental purpose, we are concerned about this proposal, for several reasons.
We question the proximity of this project to an impaired brook, a wetland, and a previously unrecorded Native American site- a rarity for its kind, in Vermont. With the potentially explosive nature of digesters, and the risk for spills or other mishaps on a property that contains several elevation changes toward the brook and wetland, we cannot endorse the project in its current location, as proposed.
We would first request that a berm surround any methane digester at this location, because of its proximity to a wetland, and the Native American site. Our primary request, though, is that the digester be moved from its currently proposed site (in the Nov. 17 filing) to another area in this location- ideally, across the road.
Here are a few more specific reasons for our request above:
1) SAAWA worries about the potential for the digester to result in more cows in a vulnerable area of the watershed. Historically, improvements to "manure handling" have not resulted in improved water quality - they have resulted in more cows and, therefore, more com and more water problems.
2) A digester in the watershed will institutionalize industrial farming in our watershed, and any move to reduce the number of cows in our watershed will now, after the installation of the digester, become more difficult. It is clear that fewer cows are key to water quality health.
3) Potential for spills so close to Jewett Brook is alarming.
4) Once again, benefits are exported to high population areas ofNew England and the costs are borne by Vermonters. Environmental credits are sold to others, and environmental costs borne are by those in our watershed.
5) While benefits to the farm community and Green Mountain Power are tempting, benefits to water quality are uncertain. At this point, water quality comes first and should be the driver of a project such as this. We need to be more certain of impact on the watershed.
6) A project that was genuinely concerned with water quality would have measurable in-lake water quality targets and contingencies built into the project.
We do applaud GMP's efforts to improve water quality, especially in St. Albans Bay, which you can imagine is dear to us. However, as we learn more about this proposed digester - at least in its currently proposed form - we harbor serious reservations about the high risks associated with it.
Thank you in advance for your attention to this letter, and we thank you for the work you perform in our state.
The St. Albans Area Watershed Association (SAAWA)