This is My Town: Burlington, VT

This is my town

  • by Jack Yates
  • 3 min read

This University of Vermont graduate tells us why cyanobacteria is something we all need to know about. It could be coming to a lake near you…

Nestled comfortably between Vermont and Upstate New York you would think Lake Champlain is a scene only found in fairy tales. In the summer you can walk barefoot along its banks and gaze out at the striking contrast of blue water and green mountains.

Regardless of which side of the lake you find yourself on, the backdrop of the Green Mountains in Vermont or the Adirondacks in New York State create awe-inspiring beauty. Rumors of a lake monster named Champ lurking in its waters enforce the mythical scene this lake possesses.

Dotted around its perimeter are some of the best beaches in the country. Which, aside from the rare and small temporary dug-out fire pit, contains only trace signs of a human presence. Plastic and other trash are nowhere to be found. It presents a fascinating scene as to how such a naturally beautiful place in the United States could seemingly go so untouched.

Although like all fairy tales there is no truth to the magic that they possess. The lake itself is heavily burdened by its very own yet non-unique environmental crisis. The wonder of Lake Champlain is corrupted by massive and deadly pollution-fed algae blooms of cyanobacteria. Coming out primarily in the warmer months, they are a devastating form of environmental degeneration.

Lake Champlain is corrupted by massive and deadly pollution-fed algae blooms of cyanobacteria

Appearing as a stark green mass covering the natural blue waters of the lake, this invasive bacteria serves to not just destroy the health of the lake but anyone entering it. All too often in the summer months, one must check the water standards of the lake before swimming. This applies to not only humans but to our furry friends as well. Dogs have died due to complications after swimming in the bacteria laden waters.

These blooms are fed by massive amounts of prosperous run off coming from farms across Vermont, Quebec, and New York who all dump their pollutants into the lake. Combined with warm weather this creates the perfect scene for algae blooms to explode. Efforts on behalf of New York and Vermont are being made to curb this runoff.

Each state has been able to reduce the amount of phosphorus being poured into the lake by its tributaries. But is it enough? As the blooms continue to last longer and increase in size and frequency more action from local citizens is needed. Here is how we can help! We need to bolster sustainable farming practices and other efforts to fight pollution.

The news of the bacteria infestation has already begun to travel effecting the local tourism that New York and Vermont both very much depend on. It’s a story that is also discouragingly consistent across all of North America. Large bodies of water that have been treated as dumping grounds are beginning to become increasingly over-polluted. Lake Champlain serves as a cautionary tale in the observable progression of this over-pollution. If you are like me and live near the shores of Lake Champlain or near any notable body of water, I implore you to take some form of action.

Whether it’s attending a clean-up effort or calling a local representative to demand action. Every bit counts when it comes to protecting the natural surroundings that are our home. If you ever find yourself in Vermont or upstate New York in the summer, I highly encourage you to come and enjoy a swim in Lake Champaign. It is still certainly one of the most beautiful places in the country—just make sure that you check the water quality before you do decide to take a dip.