Water Board finds consensus on stormwater cleanup

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(Host) The Water Resources Board says there’s widespread scientific and technical agreement on how to clean up streams damaged by stormwater. On Tuesday, the board released a report that tries to tackle one of the most vexing pollution problems that faces Vermont.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) Water Resources Board Chairman David Blythe says the report represents a consensus between industry officials, scientists and environmental advocates.

Blythe says the key part of the discussion was that everyone involved worked hard to work together.

(Blythe) “We asked people at the beginning of that process to check their weapons at the door, and they did so. And I think it would be impossible to overstate how important that was. The resulting process was collaborative, not contentious.”

(Dillon) The board usually acts as a judge, and hears appeals of state water permits. But in this case, it invited people to work together outside the constraints of a contested legal case. The goal was to help break an impasse over stormwater regulation that began several years ago in Chittenden County. The board opened its first ever investigative docket to look at the scientific and technical issues.

The group met throughout the summer and fall. Blythe says the plan relies on monitoring of impaired waters, and suggests ways to track pollutants.

(Blythe) “Once you understand what the receiving water is able to absorb, then you can in fact have an effective clean up plan.”

(Dillon) The board released its report a week after the Agency of Natural Resources unveiled a draft bill that would overhaul the state’s stormwater statutes. Environmentalists have criticized the agency’s draft bill as overreaching, and say it probably would violate the federal clean water act.

Blythe was careful not to wade into that debate. And the Water Resources Board recommends only slight changes to Vermont law.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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