Communities Work Together to Improve Water Quality

Greetings, Colchester community!

All of the Chittenden County communities that are subject to the federal MS4 stormwater permit requirements are also members of the Chittenden County Regional Stormwater Education Program (RSEP), which is responsible for educating the region on stormwater as is required under the permits.

The Town of Colchester’s Director of Public Works Bryan Osborne offers the following letter to residents to let everyone know how the RSEP’s efforts are progressing and to express appreciation to residents for their efforts.

For more than ten years, several Chittenden County communities, including Colchester, have worked together to create and operate the Regional Stormwater Education Program (RSEP). This organization is a collaborative effort of nine municipalities, the University of Vermont, the Vermont Agency of Transportation, and the Burlington International Airport. The central mission of RSEP is to educate the public on how stormwater affects our streams and Lake Champlain and the simple things we all can do to improve overall water quality. Together, we have been able to do much more than we would if efforts were town by town.

Our efforts have included extensive community outreach and education to residents on key behaviors that anyone could do: picking up pet waste, reducing the use of fertilizers and pesticides, testing soils to determine if fertilizers are even needed, and greener practices for car washing. We are happy to report that progress is being made, and the overall results are promising. In 2013, we surveyed more than four hundred residents of the nine RSEP member towns. More than 80 percent of those surveyed now pick up pet waste, compared to only 62 percent in 2003. Pet waste can be a significant source of bacterial contamination to our streams and Lake Champlain. Similarly, only 29 percent of the citizens surveyed use fertilizers on their lawn, down from 50 percent. We also saw an increase in soil testing to determine whether fertilizers are even needed. Testing soil for fertilizer need saves money, and it also prevents unnecessary pollutants from entering our local waters.

Over the past decade, Colchester has completed sixteen stormwater pollution projects totaling $1.3 million to improve the overall quality of our water resources. Using a $1.5 million EPA grant, we have also recently completed the Integrated Water Resources Management Plan, which makes important recommendations regarding future stormwater work for further improvements. Your efforts are equally important and have resulted in significant progress. We would like to offer a special thanks to all of the dedicated members of the Colchester Conservation Commission who have managed the construction of rain gardens, held rain barrel workshops, and led the Town’s annual Green Up Day efforts. We would also like to thank the Boy Scout Troop 658 for its annual work with the Town on stenciling stormwater catch basins to educate the public that these structures drain directly to receiving waters and that residents should not dump any type of pollutants into them. We applaud your ongoing commitment to improving our water resources, and we remain committed to working with you to advance these common goals.

To that end, in 2014 and beyond, we will provide you with more information about how you can further protect waterways by using rain gardens and rain barrels and by reducing impermeable surfaces on your property. As spring and summer rainstorms become more intense, these actions can “slow the flow” of stormwater so that our local waterways don’t become excessively eroded and/or clogged with silt and other trash.

We would like to thank the people of Colchester for their stewardship of our streams and of Lake Champlain. We encourage anyone who wants to learn more about what can be done to keep our town’s streams and Lake Champlain clean to please visit

Bryan K. Osborne
Director of Public Works
Regional Stormwater Education Program Steering Committee member

Your schools and your town government are working hard to engage our community. Please encourage your friends and family to subscribe to The Spotlight. When we’re all informed, we make a stronger community!

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