Mayor’s Office

Mayor Miro Weinberger Welcoming Remarks at the Vermont Environmental Consortium 3rd Annual Water Quality Conference


June 4, 2014
Contact:  Mike Kanarick

Mayor Miro Weinberger Welcoming Remarks at the Vermont Environmental Consortium 3rd Annual Water Quality Conference
(As delivered at Main Street Landing at 8:30 am)

“Good morning.  Burlington is happy to host once again the Vermont Environmental Consortium’s annual water quality conference.

We have a very interesting day of discussion and debate ahead, and I want to applaud VEC for putting together three outstanding panels and bringing focus to the critical issue of water quality.  I also want to thank VEC for its leadership on other important discussions where sound environmental policy must be reconciled with economic development.  In particular, Burlington appreciates VEC’s willingness to engage the discussion of how environmentally-impacted urban soils are managed – a discussion which will have a considerable impact on how the remainder of the waterfront, downtown Burlington, and other Vermont cities and towns evolve.

Burlington is, of course, always excited to host a conversation about cleaning up Vermont’s lakes – no one has a greater interest in a clean lake than Burlingtonians, who depend on the lake for our drinking water, our economic prosperity, and our recreational and spiritual sustenance.

For these reasons, Burlington takes our commitment to the lake very seriously and is investing significant funds and effort in its protection.  In 2009, the City established a dedicated stormwater user fee and stormwater management program.  Since its creation, Burlington has spent approximately $5 million on stormwater management, with $3.5 million coming directly from user fees collected from property owners.   As of January 1, 2014, a 50 percent increase in stormwater rates has been implemented and, going forward, Burlington will make over $1 million of investments annually in stormwater management.

This lake protection investment is not new.  Prior to 2009, the City spent over $52 million on combined sewer separation and wet weather treatment systems at the main wastewater treatment plant in the 1990s.

A year ago at this conference, I shared my perspective that any new system needs to be fair, effective, efficient, and include green infrastructure interventions.  I appreciate that since our gathering here last year, the Governor has issued a TMDL plan to the EPA that embraces each of these principles.  I applaud the Governor for his commitment to clean water and the careful, balanced strategy he has proposed that targets phosphorus reduction through new agriculture, river stability, transportation, forest management, and wetland policies, in addition to regulation of developed lands and wastewater plants.

Further, I and many other local leaders applaud the Governor for presenting a plan that would allocate no further reductions to wastewater plants, given that we know the performance of these plants already has been improved dramatically and that additional investment in these plants will yield minimal improvements to lake quality and far less impact other potential investments.

I am troubled by the EPA’s reaction to drafts of the plan that it is “highly unlikely” that the final TMDL would allocate no reductions to wastewater treatment plants.  All policy-makers whose authority is derived from the public’s trust have a great interest in using taxpayer dollars as wisely and effectively as possible.  Moreover, it is quite problematic that at the same time the federal government is dramatically reducing its investment in local schools, local CDBG grants, and other local project investment, the EPA is contemplating requiring local and state governments to spend their own resources on investments that do not yield the most impactful results.  Again, I appreciate the Governor’s position on this and hope his Administration will keep defending local governments on this issue in the months ahead.

Thank you all again for joining us here in Burlington today and for the good work you will do in the day ahead.”


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