Success: Vermont Water Quality Day
The Friday before Memorial Day weekend, Vermonters celebrated Water Quality Day. In a proclamation, Governor Peter Shumlin noted that "the stormwater, wastewater and drinking water systems and the staff that operate them 24/7, 365 days a year are public servants dedicated to protecting public health and the environment and deserve the understanding and support of the Vermont citizenry." Therefore, on that Friday, May 27th, water, wastewater, biosolids, and stormwater treatment facilities around the state hosted open houses and offered tours "so that Vermonters can learn about this vital, but hidden infrastructure."
According to news in The Citizen, 10 facilities participated.
Bruce Lawrence in Brattleboro noted good publicity around the event and enjoyed showing his facility to 8 citizens - including the town manager and staff. In Milton, Nathan Lavallee counted 18 people touring the wastewater treatment facility, and in Hinesburg, Erik Bailey reported 30 attendees at their water treatment facility open house. Both Essex Junction and South Burlington saw more than 50 people at their wastewater facility open houses, many of them local government leaders. A class of 30 local school children toured the South Burlington facility, along with Assistant DEC Commissioner George Desch, several state senators, and representatives of the environmental ECHO Center. The Essex Junction event was covered by Vermont Public Radio.
Alyssa Shuren, DEC Commissioner, applauded the Water Quality Day events, according to VPR: "'What Essex is doing is wonderful, and the good news is that many wastewater treatment facilities are actually opening up their doors,” for community outreach,... Schuren said the work behind public water systems can be a “silent service,” because most people don’t think much about the systems when they’re working well. 'Every day there’s not a problem – we turn on the faucet and we get clean water, or we flush the toilet and there aren’t issues - is essentially a success' for the officials managing public water systems."
Daniel Hecht, Executive Director of Green Mountain Water Environment Association (GMWEA) and lead organizer of the event, noted that, in all, 178 people toured facilities. And while it would be nice to have many more, he noted that "the important thing to remember is that you can’t measure success only in terms of facility visits." Just having the publicity around the events raises public awareness. And "many of the visitors we had were people who can affect public policy and perspective."