Unprecedented Amount Of Sediment Washing Into Lake Champlain

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(Host) The water levels on Lake Champlain leveled off today at 102.7 feet. Forecasters say they expect lake levels to stay high for weeks.

And as VPR’s Mitch Wertlieb reports, all of the runoff that flows into the lake is carrying an unprecedented amount of sediment.

(Wertlieb) Water in Lake Champlain has turned brown because small soil and mineral particles from silt and clay sediments were carried downstream in lake tributaries – or eroded from the shoreline itself.

Lake Champlain Basin Program Manager Bill Howland says it’s a visual confirmation of pollution:

(Howland) "When you see sediments going into the lake, you’re often seeing nutrients going into the lake on those sediment particles."

(Wertlieb) Howland recently viewed the lake from the air, and says the sediment reveals outflows of dissolved phosphorous.

While the southern part of the lake is normally cloudy with sediments, Howland says the change to the northern lake is striking. And he worries about what that means for the future.

(Howland) "We’re concerned about that. Phosphorus is one of the necessary nutrients for algae blooms and that’s something we’re going to have to be watching."

(Wertlieb) And Howland says the debris that’s been washed into the lake is only making the situation worse:

(Howland) "At the shoreline, where these logs and debris and driftwood and so forth are being tossed by the waves, they become tools, just like little shovels and they are attacking the shoreline with every wave and increasing the amount of erosion that happens on shoreline locations throughout the lake."

(Wertlieb) Howland says there’s no way to know exactly how the sediment will affect the long-term clean-up plan for the lake, because we’ve never seen flooding quite like this.

(Howland) "It is historic, nobody alive has ever seen such high water. This is the highest it’s been in the period of record of over 150 years."

(Wertlieb) For VPR News, I’m Mitch Wertlieb.


Lake Champlain Basin Program Manager Bill Howland tells VPR’s Mitch Wertlieb we’re seeing unprecedented amounts of sediment in the lake.

Click listen to hear the interview with Lake Champlain Basin Program Manager Bill Howland

Lake Champlain Basin Program

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