Burlington's 3rd Annual "Fines for Food' Campaign Kicks off. Details.

Department of Public Works

What We're Doing to Protect Lake Health and Water Quality

We are dedicated to the mission of protecting water quality and recreation on Lake Champlain and all area waters.

Burlington has a long and successful history of improving water quality. In 1953, we built Vermont's first large wastewater treatment plant (WWTP), followed by two additional WWTPs in the 60's. Significant upgrades were made in the 70's to increase flow capacity and add secondary treatment at these plants. A $52M bond vote in the 1990's reduced the frequency and volume of untreated combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and improved phosphorus removal at the WWTPs.

Thanks to voters' overwhelming support for the Clean Water Resiliency Plan (CWRP) in November 2018, DPW is working hard to implement long-planned for improvements that will modernize our system and strengthen our ongoing efforts to protect water quality. We want to update you on our most recent, ongoing efforts to advance these significant water quality initiatives.

To keep rates affordable and as an early step under the CWRP, our Stormwater Program applied for and received $1 Million in funding under a new Vermont Department of Conservation (DEC) grant opportunity. Our team conducted extensive site visits, soil analysis, data analysis and modeling to determine the right projects to propose. This award will fund 12 Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) projects to protect water quality, keep utility rates affordable and help address the inherited challenge of old infrastructure - specifically, CSOs. Construction of these retrofits will occur over the next two years. These projects will make a meaningful difference in capturing stormwater before it enters our combined system during storm events.

We will advance as much of the wastewater treatment work as possible through Vermont's Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF). This reduces long-term interest repayment and aligns with our mission to keep rates affordable.

We are currently underway with all of the Plant's design-work and expect to begin the Plant improvements in Fall 2019. 
- We are approaching these improvements holistically to ensure everything works together at the Plants. A highly technical, comprehensive approach is necessary; 
- The CWSRF administrative process does take time; 
- Even with the most critical wastewater plant work being expedited, this is a realistic schedule for finalizing the design, soliciting bids and getting approvals to proceed into construction

This Fall we expect to begin the upgrades to the SCADA system and programmable logic controller at our Main WWTP. This is the central nervous system of the plant, allows ongoing measurement and monitoring of Plant operations, allows certain functions to be more automated and informs reliable, data-based decision making. Stormwater outfall work will begin later this year. Disinfection system upgrades will be underway in winter. Pump station work will begin in 2020.

While the plant upgrades will not be ready to construct until this fall, we have taken key steps to reduce the chance of plant upsets this summer. We have reconfigured our disinfection system and created additional redundancies so that we have a more resilient system. We are continuing to consult with a variety of national and regional level wastewater experts. Enhanced staffing during known weather events continues. We remain well positioned to take any short-term corrective action necessary as we did last summer to stabilize the system if any unexpected issues at the Plants occur.

Burlington beaches are open during nearly the entirety of the recreation season. Due to current and past efforts, long-term beach closures no longer occur in Burlington. We remain committed to water quality and an enjoyable summer on the Lake.


We want to offer you opportunities to meet the Water Resources team, ask questions and see the infrastructure in person that you've entrusted us to steward for you.

- On May 4, we are offering a "Build-A-Rain Barrel" workshop. Using rain barrels helps you save water, save money and save your local waterways at the same time! Space is limited. See here for more info: http://rethinkrunoff.org/e…/burlington-rain-barrel-workshop/.

- Beginning on April 18th and occurring the third Thursday of every month thru October, we will be hosting an open house followed by tours of our Wastewater Treatment Plants. The first one will be at Main Wastewater Plant at 53 Lavalley Lane. A short open house will begin at 5PM (with a rotating speaker from our Water Team), followed by tours at 5:30PM. For additional information or to RSVP, please email water-resources@burlingtonvt.gov.

We will see you this summer! For any questions, please reach out to DPW's Public Information Manager, Robert Goulding at RGoulding@burlingtonvt.gov or 802-540-0846. Thank you.

Press Release Date: 
City Department: 
Public Works Department