Water Resources

Industrial Pollution Prevention Program

Burlington's Water Resources Division recognizes the need to stay vigilant in protecting the City's assets and safeguarding our precious natural resources.  To that end, we have been developing an Industrial Pollution Prevention Program (IPPP) for sewer system users to better manage any concerning pollutants discharged into the sanitary sewer system.  Our goals for this program include improving the treatment of pollutants at our wastewater facilities, reducing the frequency of disruptive and costly sewer back ups, and ultimately reducing pollutants entering Lake Champlain.  In order to create a successful program, it is critical that we understand and learn more about commercial businesses in Burlington and their sewer flows.


Communication Updates

Phase 1: Initial Public Engagement (July 2020-October 2020)

In this phase, we asked all business owners to complete a questionnaire about the nature of their business and related sewer discharges.  The level of engagement was robust and we were also able to conduct several onsite inspections at various business locations to learn more about their specific operations. 

Phase 2: Additional Data Collection with Select Businesses (July 2021-September 2021)

In this phase, we are asking some of our original Phase 1 respondents to provide more detailed information about their facilities and related sewer discharges.  The Phase 2 Sewer Questionnaire can be completed by 1) using an online survey link or 2) downloading the required forms, see links below.  Please select your preferred format and remit only one completed questionnaire to us.  We appreciate your participation in this important data collection process.

Burlington Business Owners: Phase 2 Sewer Questionnaire

Burlington Business Owners: Phase 2 Sewer Questionnaire


Background

The City of Burlington’s Wastewater Treatment Plants (WWTPs) are under increased stress due to the relative high strength characteristics of the wastewater influent received.  Influent is the untreated, raw sewage that flows into the treatment plants from all Burlington properties.  The organic content of influent has increased significantly in recent years, which is partly due to increased high strength waste from commercial and industrial customers—including beverage, food and other manufacturing industries. The variable and high strength nature of industrial waste can be disruptive to the biological process at a WWTP, prevent full and proper treatment of wastewater influent and result in discharge permit exceedances.  In fact, two high profile disinfection failures at our Main Wastewater Treatment Plant in 2018 were likely caused by the negative impact of high strength waste on our biological treatment cells.


Looking Ahead & Finding Solutions

The Water Resources Division’s core value of providing access to clean, safe and affordable water services requires that the City stay vigilant on the protection of our assets and the safeguarding of our precious natural resources.  The City of Burlington has made recent and focused efforts to rehabilitate and reinvest in core, aging and critical infrastructure.  In 2018, the City put forward the Clean Water Resiliency Plan (CWRP) to stabilize and upgrade its wastewater and stormwater systems. This Plan has broad community support and will ensure that we and future generations will benefit from a healthy, vibrant Lake Champlain – the pillar of this region’s economic strength, recreational opportunities and natural beauty.  One important component of the CWRP was the development of an Industrial Pollution Prevention (IPP) program for the City’s sewer system industrial users. The creation of an IPPP will allow us to better understand and control the discharge of pollutants of concern into the City’s sanitary sewer system.  We have identified the need to work with our industrial customers to ensure that their wastewater effluent is not placing an undue burden on our WWTPs and impacting the resiliency of the wastewater treatment infrastructure.  The City values the vibrant array of local industries and remains committed to developing an IPPP that will allow these industries to flourish while ensuring the protection of Burlington’s water resources.  This program is being developed in order to improve overall treatment of pollutants by our WWTPs, and ultimately reducing the pollutants entering Lake Champlain.


Continuous Improvement

In July 2020, the IPPP Team began contacting Burlington businesses directly to gain a better understanding of their business, schedule a review of industrial facility wastewater treatment demands and develop City specific requirements to be implemented within the forthcoming updated IPPP.  We have asked business owners to complete a brief sewer questionnaire that will provide valuable insight as we develop this program.  Specifically, the questionnaire is designed to help identify the type of businesses discharging wastewater to the City’s sanitary sewer system as well as the origin and type of pollutants that may be associated with each business’s wastewater discharge.  The Industrial Pollution Program is targeting a mid – late 2021 implementation phase.  The program’s focus will be on educating sewer users and ensuring that all Burlington businesses implement lake-friendly sewer waste management practices. For the majority of businesses, these best management practices will allow them to bring their sewer flow into compliance with the City ordinances and pollutant limits designed to protect water quality.  Similar to requirements in other municipalities, businesses that discharge larger volumes and/or higher strength waste may need to take additional measures to bring their discharges into compliance.  A small number of businesses may not be able to fully mitigate the strength of their waste on-site.  In that case, the City will work to develop agreements which allow the businesses to continue draining to the sewer, but which may include a sewer surcharge fee which recoups the costs of treatment of that higher strength waste at the sewer plants.  Phase 2 of our outreach efforts began in July 2021 and is ongoing.  Please note, we will be conducting additional outreach and information gathering with all industrial sewer users prior to the implementation of the IPPP and related fee schedules.


Existing Regulations

While we advance the development of our IPPP, customers are reminded of an existing Burlington City Ordinance (BCO) that sets specific limits on the chemical composition of allowable wastewater discharges, particularly BOD[1] (400 mg/l), TSS[2] (500 mg/l), and fats/oils/greases (15 mg/l), section 26-71.  Customers that may exceed these limits need to either prove they can meet the identified limits or enter into an agreement with the City to be compliant with BCO.  In addition, we recommend all customers perform regular and routine maintenance on existing pretreatment facilities, including grease, oil and sand interceptors, to ensure satisfactory and effective operation of these treatment system components.


[1] Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) is the amount of dissolved oxygen needed by aerobic biological organisms to break down organic material present in a given water sample at certain temperature over a specific time period. 

[2] Total suspended solids (TSS) is the dry-weight of suspended particles, that are not dissolved, in a sample of water that can be trapped by a filter that is analyzed using a filtration apparatus.