Department of Public Works

July 11th CSO + Historical Progress Over Time


Beginning at 10:48PM on July 11th, the Pine Street Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) discharged into Pine Barge Canal. Thanks to recent work building on investments by earlier generations, CSO's discharge far less frequently than ever before in Burlington. It is important to note that this CSO is unrelated to Wastewater Treatment Plant performance, does not discharge directly to Lake Champlain and is comprised of a vast majority of stormwater with a smaller wastewater fraction. These are permitted events - designed to reduce the likelihood of sewage backups in homes and businesses. While not required, we post advisory signs within one mile of this discharge -- at Perkins Pier and the Blodgett Public Access Area. No beaches are closed.

With a combined system, Burlington is able to treat the vast majority of its stormwater throughout the year, unlike many communities which do not convey stormwater to a treatment plant. There are trade-offs in any system, but Burlington - like many urban municipalities - has continued making significant progress in reducing its impact on area waters. 

Continued Progress

As recently as the 1990's before system-wide upgrades, Burlington was releasing an average of 170 million gallons of untreated, non-disinfected stormwater and wastewater directly to area waters, with beaches closed for days or seasons at a time. This no longer happens. In the 1990's, much of the system was separated at significant cost and upgrades were made to the Treatment Plants.

Current Work To Improve System

The Mayor and DPW put forward an ambitious Clean Water Resiliency Plan - which the community voted overwhelmingly to fund in November 2018 - to upgrade the wastewater and stormwater systems in Burlington. Work is underway to design and then implement key upgrades at the Wastewater Treatment Plants and Pump Stations. Burlington also has multiple projects completed or underway this year to reduce or slow storm flows to the combined system, and filter out pollutants. Recently, Burlington was awarded $1 million in grant funding to construct 12 additional stormwater projects over the next two years under the Clean Water Resiliency Plan (CWRP) at no cost to the ratepayer. 

CSO's - An Inherited Challenge

Burlington is one of over 800 communities nationwide operating with a combined wastewater and stormwater system. CSO's were built into the system to serve as "relief valves" - reducing the likelihood that sewage would backup into homes or businesses. CSOs are an inherited design feature of older systems and while they have a clear benefit, work continues to continue reducing their frequency. 


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Public Works Department