Pipe failure sends sewage into Vt.’s Lake Champlain

Posted April 20, 2011, at 8:19 p.m.
Last modified April 21, 2011, at 8:19 a.m.

BURLINGTON, Vt. — The Burlington Department of Public Works says operator error has caused about 2.5 million gallons of storm water and untreated sewage to flow into Lake Champlain.

Laurie Adams, the department’s assistant director for water quality, says pumps that add chlorine to sewage malfunctioned for about 90 minutes Wednesday.

She tells the Burlington Free Press the health risks are uncertain but that significant human contact is unlikely, because the lake water is still so cold following winter.

A plant official says sewage made up only 10 percent — or less — of the discharged material.

Still, Louis Porter, Lake Champlain Lakekeeper for the Conservation Law Foundation, says the discharge poses a serious risk to the health of the lake, by putting bacteria, phosphorus and other nutrients into it.

He estimates that about 200,000 people get treated drinking water from the lake.

Steve Roy, the plant’s project engineer, says heavy rains during the 90-minute incident helped dilute the spill.