Daily Archives: December 30, 2014

Our Proud Heritage of Shit-Dumping

If you happened to be hanging around Fort Cassin Point on Christmas Eve, perhaps you noticed an unusual smell. Perhaps not; but I sure hope you didn’t drink the water.

The State of Vermont legally permitted the City of Vergennes to dump 467,000 gallons of sewage and stormwater into Otter Creek and Lake Champlain on Christmas Eve. Ho ho ho.

That lovely tidbit from the Facebook page of our friends at Lake Champlain International. In case you have trouble visualizing 467,000 gallons of sewage and stormwater, LCI helpfully points out that it’s equivalent to “about 65 tractor-trailer milk tankers.”

Welcome to Vermont, kiddies!

Welcome to Vermont, kiddies!

Mmmm, good. I hope the critters at the Fort Cassin/Otter Creek Wildlife Management Area didn’t mind the state’s creative “Wildlife Management Through Sewage” technique. Or perhaps they’ve gotten used to shipments of Vergennes’ untreated crap, since state regulation of sewage and stormwater discharges is downright laughable — especially for a state with such a strong, and often unwarranted, reputation for environmental purity.

The comments on LCI’s post are often endearingly innocent: “How could this happen?” “How is this allowed?” Stuff like that.

Well, not only is it allowed, but it’s standard operating procedure in our Clean, Green state.

James Ehlers, executive director of Lake Champlain International, …says sewage spills and overflows from Vermont’s wastewater treatment systems are common occurrences.

But the public is only notified when they’re exceptionally large, as was the case in April 2005, when a Burlington sewer line ruptured, spewing millions of gallons of raw sewage in the Winooski River for days before it was repaired.

That, from a July 2013 piece by Seven Days’ Ken Picard, outlining the appalling sketchiness of state policy on releases of stormwater and sewage. By law, he writes, the state is required to post online any illegal discharge that “may pose a threat to human health or the environment” within 24 hours of learning about it — but it may take days or even weeks for the state to learn of a discharge from a municipal wastewater treatment operator.

And while the state is required to post the information online, just try to find it. I tried, and got thoroughly lost in a morass of bureaucratic jargon.

Now, if there’s a torrential downpour, just about any system will be overloaded. But many of Vermont’s municipal systems are outdated. We haven’t faced the issue because, well, we can’t afford to.

This is part of our decades of noncompliance with the Clean Water Act regarding Lake Champlain, and one reason why the EPA has had to step in and force Vermont to clean up its act.

It’s sad, if not surprising. Too often, Vermont fails to live up to its own self-image. We react with horror when new things seem to pose a threat, like ridgeline wind and the Vermont Gas pipeline. We’re much more passive about the bad things we’ve always done, like inadequate water treatment, unregulated junkyards, and the discharge of particulate matter from thousands of residential woodstoves. (The latter is largely responsible for our highest-in-the-nation rate of adult asthma. Not West Virginia or Texas; good old Vermont.)

 

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My first six months (give or take)

This here blog has been around since June 12, 2014. It’s been a lot of fun, and rewarding to know that quite a lot of people follow it. Nowhere near Kardashian territory, but pretty good for a special-interest blog about Vermont politics.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog, and I’m sharing it for anyone who might be interested. If not, well, click on.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 49,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 18 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Honest government, if not honest elections

Now comes a brief spurt of outrage from the Kingdom, in the form of a belatedly-organized “group” (mainly one guy, William Round, with some money and a grudge) agitating for the election of Scott Milne as governor by the state legislature.

Newly-minted Seven Days political reporter Terri Hallenbeck says Round told her that “the group started over coffee among friends and includes more than 50 Vermonters he described as ordinary residents.”

Only one of the 50 shows up on the group’s FCC filing, and that would be Mr. Round. His filing asserts that VfHG has no officers, executive committee, or board of directors, so I have to assume that its organization and funding begin and end with William Round.

The lion’s share of the $30,000 ad buy is on WCAX. The ads will run from Dec. 30 through Jan. 7, the day before the legislature will hold its usually ceremonial election. Ad buys are targeted on WCAX and CBS news programming.

The ad says nothing about the close outcome of the November election; it simply recycles Republican complaints about Gov. Shumlin — high taxes, overspending, “broken promises,” etc.

VfHG’s emergence does give Milne the opportunity to deny the validity of the November vote:

“It points out to the people that we’ve got a constitution that essentially says we’ve had no election for governor. That happens on January 8,” Milne said.

Ah, so the votes cast by nearly 200,000 Vermonters? They don’t count. Sorry. We failed to cast them with sufficient clarity of purpose.

Well, it’s just more of Milne’s self-interested pseudo-logic, nothing new there.

As for Mr. Round and his willingness to spend $30,000 in a doomed effort to re-litigate the election? I fully support his Constitutional right to waste his money.

Finally, I suppose it would be churlish of me to reproduce the evidence of ungrammatical haste in filling out an official form? Yes, it probably would.

William Round FCC form