• Business Business

Locals voice concerns over multi-million dollar sewer project threatening city water quality: 'We could have some real problems in 20 years'

"My heart is really broken."

"My heart is really broken."

Photo Credit: iStock

A multi-million-dollar sewer project coming to a town in Vermont is facing stiff opposition from local residents who fear it could have a detrimental effect on water quality within the state.

What's happening?

As explained by VTDigger, the town of Colchester in Chittenden County is set to break ground on an $18.8 million sewer project later this month. The project reportedly has been discussed for "more than 60 years" and was described as "one of the biggest public infrastructure projects ever undertaken in inner Malletts Bay."

While town manager Aaron Frank said in an email that the goal of the "pollution abatement project" is to "address failing septic systems and human waste bacteria in Malletts Bay," locals who object to the project contend that a new sewer line will have adverse effects on the bay, which VTDigger described as "a serene, scenic natural harbor that provides spectacular views, wildlife habitat and year-round recreational opportunities from boating to fishing."

The plan is to add about four more miles of sewer line to the town's limited 15-mile sewer system. Opponents of the project have stressed that the undertaking could lead to a sharp decline in water quality because the development would increase vehicular traffic in the area and further compound the pollution issue near the bay.

"My heart is really broken because water quality is super important. Everybody loves the lake, everybody cares about the lake," Marilyn Sowles, a longtime resident who has opposed the project since 1999, told VTDigger. "But the direction that Colchester is going is not addressing water quality in the bay and we could have some real problems in 20 years."

The construction tied to the project is expected to bring significant traffic and delays to the area. Frank said the town is coordinating with the school district and local emergency services, but the project is moving forward.

Why is this important?

Colchester has a population of about 17,200 residents and runs 27 miles along the Lake Champlain shoreline. The town primarily uses septic systems and already faces issues of pollution caused by the ever-changing climate.

VTDigger explained that "climate change and increasing levels of cyanobacteria blooms, phosphorus and other pollutants" have already affected the water quality of Malletts Bay. The costly project has fueled concerns among residents that "the town is investing in future development over critical environmental improvements."

Opponents of the project also assert that it doesn't address other pressing issues like stormwater mitigation and bacterial contamination.

"Choosing sewer was a clear preference to accelerate development. Acceleration of development will only make the stormwater situation worse," James Ehlers, an environmental activist and former Colchester resident, told VTDigger. "Not only are they not taking action to protect the bay and the health of the public, they are willfully choosing to make it worse."

What can be done about this?

If you face a similar situation in which government plans are negatively affecting progress toward a cleaner, safer future, it's important to use available means to fight back.

For example, Charleston, South Carolina, has faced an issue of raw sewage in its streets, so a local nonprofit has threatened to sue the city's water provider to ensure they take faster and more effective action to prevent these spills.

These situations highlight the importance of addressing infrastructure problems promptly to prevent contamination and protect public health. If you're looking for ways to get involved with critical climate issues, educating yourself is a great first step. Understanding the local impact of our changing climate and waste management challenges can empower you to support initiatives that aim to improve your community's infrastructure and environmental health.

Join our free newsletter for cool news and actionable info that makes it easy to help yourself while helping the planet.

Cool Divider