Quebec lawmakers want a permanent ban on leachate in the lake on the northern border of Vermont
Quebec lawmakers want Vermont to permanently ban the discharge of leachate into Lake Memphremagog, which provides drinking water to more than 175,000 Canadians.
Environmental groups suspect that the PFAS chemicals, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, detected in the lake in the fall were from the Casella Waste Systems landfill, the only active landfill in Vermont. It is located in Coventry. Casella disputes the link and said there is no evidence of a concrete link.
Last Thursday, the National Assembly of Quebec voted 118-0 to ask the government of the province to take a position on “the permanent ban on dumping treated leachate in the watershed of Lake Memphremagog and to ask the government of Vermont to make sure this is done ”. records show. The motion was reported for the first time by the Sherbrooke newspaper La Tribune.
Leachate – the liquid that forms when waste breaks down in a landfill and water filters through it – can be very toxic and can pollute land, groundwater and waterways.
Officials and activists on both sides of the northern border have spoken for years about the quality of the lake’s water, which flows north from Newport in Canada.
Casella Waste Systems has already sent its leachate to the Newport Wastewater Treatment Plant, located on a tributary of the lake. But in 2019, as part of a deal in a litigation relating to Law 250, the company agreed to stop doing so until January 2024.
Calls to extend the moratorium were prompted by the discovery last fall of the emerging pollutant PFAS in a drinking water intake area in Canada connected to the lake. Campaigners believe the traces may have come from leachate from the landfill. Experts say it takes two years for water to flow down the length of the lake, so campaigners believe it’s possible the PFAS found last fall may have been in leachate released in 2018 or 2019.
Julie Moore, secretary of the Vermont Natural Resources Agency, said on Monday that she had spoken with Benoit Charette, Quebec’s Minister of the Environment, about a meeting to discuss Lake Memphremagog and other waters cross-border, including Missisquoi Bay in Lake Champlain.
She plans to inform Charette of her agency’s plan to collect data on PFAS concentrations throughout the Memphremagog watershed.
Those tests – three rounds of monthly sampling starting around July – would include studying fish tissue, sampling surface water and testing discharges of treated wastewater, Moore said.
“There isn’t a lot of data available to have this kind of informed conversation,” she said of the debate around the leachate in the lake.
Asked about her reaction to the Quebec legislature’s vote, Moore said she believed “we need to have a fuller understanding of the issues.” Data like that from the planned study is the best way to move towards a solution, she said.
Moore said his staff had discussed with colleagues in Quebec about a parallel study being done on the Canadian end of the lake. The southernmost 5 miles of Finger Lake is in Vermont. The remaining 27 miles are in Quebec.
The gallery also reported that Charette wrote to Moore, saying that Canadians in the region around Lake Memphremagog want the leachate ban to become permanent, and he attaches “importance to any decision that might be taken in this direction.”
The Quebec minister asked Moore to inform her of her plans for the landfill and the lake.
Moore said plans for the study of PFAS at Lake Memphremagog began before Charette contacted her.
“We look forward to the opportunity to share… what the sampling plan is supposed to accomplish,” she said.
Concerns about the water quality of Lake Memphremagog are not limited to PFAS. Moore said she understands and shares these concerns about the impacts of the leachate in the lake.
“This is part of the reason why we demand that it be processed before release,” she said.
Moore said the study will provide insight into where PFASs come from. Although the contaminant exists in landfill waste, it can also come from other sources, she said.
The state has already studied PFAS. Last February, the Ministry of Environmental Protection published a report showing that the Montpellier and Newport wastewater treatment plants had “considerably higher” concentrations of PFAS in the discharges from their plants than other plants in Vermont treatment.
These two plants were the only ones to regularly accept landfill leachate during the study.
In Newport, city officials have said they would like to resume processing of the leachate at its sewage plant.
City manager Laura Dolgin said in February that treating the leachate generates revenue that would benefit Newport taxpayers.
Asked for comment on Monday, Dolgin said the city “supports science and technology.”
She pointed to a leachate handling moratorium clause that says the leachate restriction can be changed if the movement is supported by “new science, new technology and / or new data” that shows the risk to the community. water quality of the lake will not be “unduly unfavorable.
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