The Volunteer Storm Water
Storm water volunteers are residents of Burlington and neighboring towns who are trained to collect storm water samples at five designated sites on the Burlington lakefront where untreated storm drains empty into Lake Champlain. Teams of five volunteers (one team per site) collect runoff samples at timed intervals during select rain events between May and October. The samples are then analyzed at the Rubenstein Ecosystem Lab and the results are posted on this website to provide the public with information about the water quality in Burlington Bay.
2004 Storm Water Volunteers
How we got started
Through the Burlington Legacy Project planning process, residents identified the water quality of Lake Champlain as one of their top environmental concerns. Each time it rains contaminants such as motor oil, animal waste, and fertilizer are washed off Burlington's lawns and streets into Lake Champlain. In response to this concern the Volunteer Storm Water Monitoring Project was initiated in 2002 through a collaboration between the Burlington Eco Info Project (BEIP), the Burlington Bay Project (BBP) and the Burlington Legacy Project. The program is supported by funding from The WaterWheel Foundation and Green Mountain Power Corporation.
What pollutants do we track?
Volunteers collect samples in order to measure three common pollutants found in Burlington's storm water:
- Phosphorus is a nutrient found in many fertilizers used on land, in pet waste, and a variety of other products. When phosphorus is washed into the lake it has a fertilization effect on the lake causing algae blooms.
- Bacteria (coliform and E. coli) are also present in runoff and suggest the presence of animal and human fecal matter in the water and pose a health risk to swimmers, animals, and aquatic life.
- Sediments (referred to as Total Suspended Solids or TSS) are particles of organic and mineral matter that cloud the water and block out light. TSS is closely linked to land erosion. Because many toxic substances adsorb to suspended solids, high levels of these particulates can be cause for concern.
Chemical analyses and toxicity tests performed by BBP in 1999-2000 found that storm drain effluent entering Lake Champlain from the City of Burlington may pose relatively modest risks to the organisms in the lake. In addition, the tests found that there is the potential for human health risks from coliform bacteria in storm water after rainfall events.
What's going on with Burlington's urban runoff?
See the storm water data from 2003 on BACTERIA, SEDIMENTS, and PHOSPHORUS.
2002 data on Bacteria, Sediments, and Phosphorus.
Get real-time data on Burlington storm water runoff from the College Street storm drain autosampler.
Blanchard Beach in Burlington is permanently closed for swimming due to pollution from runoff into Englesby Brook. See the USGS Monitoring of Englesby Brook to learn more.
Watch a video from Dr. Mary Watzin on Burlington's storm water runoff and the effects on Lake Champlain.