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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Vermont (Section 319I - 1994)

Pollution from nonpoint sources continues to be the major source of water use impairment in Vermont. The state has identified a series of management objectives and action plans to respond to NPS problems and threats. Vermont plans to achieve visible water quality improvements and protect high quality waters from degradation through education, financial assistance, technical assistance, monitoring and evaluation, regulation, and continued planning.

Septic System Cleanup Stems Discharges

As one of the most prevalent sources of groundwater contamination in Vermont and one that poses a serious health risk, discharging septic systems recently became the target of a program designed to identify and clean them up. The majority of Vermont's population relies on individual septic systems to treat and dispose of domestic wastewater. The 1988 Vermont Nonpoint Source Assessment Report identified untreated waste from domestic septic systems as a source of pollution affecting nearly 90 miles of rivers and streams. In addition, 53 of 96 designated waterbodies have discharging septic systems that contribute to NPS. These discharges are not only in violation of state law, they also pose a serious risk to human health. They contribute nutrients, pathogens, and organic matter and discourage or prevent important public uses such as swimming and boating. Failing septic systems are the state's third most prevalent source of groundwater contamination. To reduce the problem of discharging septic systems, the state surveyed homeowners in high priority targeted watersheds. Field technicians interviewed homeowners and took discharge surveys - for example, dye flushing or streambank surveys - to determine if the septic systems were leaking or discharging improperly. If the technicians discovered a faulty system, the homeowner received a notice of alleged violations (NOAV) along with a compliance schedule. Technicians followed up with visits to monitor the homeowner's progress in cleaning up the system.

The domestic discharge enforcement activities program received $146,706 in section 319 funds from FY 1990 to 1992. An additional $42,461 was awarded in FY 1993. During the project's first 2.5 years, over 4,800 inspections were completed. Of the 227 violation notices issued, 136 violations have been corrected, resulting in a 61 percent compliance rate (Table 1-1). The desire to have swimmable waters in Vermont is of high priority to the majority of those contacted in the survey.

The public's reaction to the project has been positive, and public involvement has contributed to the program's success. Tips from citizens about possible discharging septic systems in other areas of the state have led to the correction of 5 out of 12 citizen complaints.


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