The three main ingredients that contribute to the pollution of our Lake Champlain waters are phosphorus, bacterial colonization, and nitrogen.
Phosphorus comes into waters from stream beds, adjacent land runoff regions in wet weather, as well as from fertilizers used to enhance green grass for lawns. Examples of failures to control phosphorus can be found in Vermont central regions such as Lake Bomoseen or Lake St. Catherine west/northwest of Rutland where milfoil is a tremendous annual problem. Malletts Bay has a history of better than average phosphorus levels compared to similar bay regions for the Lake.
Nitrogen supports chlorophyll growth such as milfoil, but this does not appear to be a widespread problem in Lake Champlain. Nitrogen comes into water from fertilizers, pets in urban regions, and mammals or birds that defecate near or into inflow streams.
Bacterial colonization such as E. coli has been reported to arise from feces due to failed septic systems of human homes or businesses, mammals, and birds. Certain strains of E. coli cause diarrhea, elevated temperatures, and general malaise affected by those, especially children, who succumb to infections of this kind. The prevailing approach for communities is to reduce the number of failed septic systems even though non-human mammals or birds may be the primary culprit of E. coli elevation counts. Such is the case for Malletts Bay.
More deep and cool waters of Lake Champlain waters limit E. coli colonization. The greater volume of the Lake compared to shallow bays dilutes bacterial concentration levels from incoming contaminated waters related to these bay inflows from streams and such. In addition, UV light kills bacteria near the water surface which is the case for E. coli.
Our State of VT Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) maintains records pertaining to water quality and advises Vermont towns in respect to approaches encouraging clean water for the Lake Champlain region.
The purpose of this article is to report the facts and myths surrounding an attempt by Colchester to reduce E. coli counts in Malletts Bay.
Malletts Bay Report as of November, 2019:
The Town of Colchester has attempted to improve inner Malletts Bay water quality as far back as 1967, over four decades ago. Last March voters turned down a sewer proposal for a $14,000,000 plan to fund a sewer line for 289 properties along West Lakeshore Dr., East Lakeshore Dr., and Goodsell Point regions.
In fact, approximately 15 failed septic systems have been reported over the last 9 or 10 years in the inner Malletts Bay region. In addition, inflow E. coli contaminated streams of Smith Hollow Creek and Crooked Creek have been shown in warm summer months to contain high non-human bacterial counts. These two streams must be analyzed now to determine and correct “point source locations” of E. coli contamination before consideration of approaches to eliminate human contributions of inadequate septic systems.
Why fund a sewer line for all 289 properties when only a few septic systems need improvement over time? Why does the Colchester Planning Commission report to the Town Select Board still support a sewer line installation? If funding of a sewer line is approved by Town voters, then how can funding exist to investigate and reduce non-human contributions to E. coli reduction in Malletts Bay? In the end, it appears that significant expense would be borne by Town residents with little effect engendered for clean Malletts Bay waters.
Contact with the Colchester Planning Commission and/or Select Board is encouraged to express your opinion, whatever it may be.
Thomas A. Coleman