NEWPORT — Local conservation group DUMP, Don’t Undermine Memphremagog’s Purity, recently announced a petition drive to have Lake Memphremagog designated as a lake in crisis.
The lake in crisis legislation was passed in 2018 in response to concerns about the water quality in Lake Carmi.
This designation brought attention and funding to address conditions that were having an adverse effect on the health of the lake, the people and wildlife who depend on it, and the local economy.
While the 2017 “Basin 17 Memphremagog Plan” was designed to address pollution problems in Lake Memphremagog, including dangerous Cyano-bacteria blooms and established invasive species, other symptoms of the ill-health of the lake have surfaced since that were not included in previous studies.
First among these are the 25-40 percent brown bullhead fish population identified with cancerous lesions found in the South Bay and Hospital Cove.
A USGS and Vermont Fish and Wildlife report released in 2019, made a direct link between fish with cancerous lesions and environmentally contaminated water.
An ANR public meeting with Secretary Moore in December of 2020 on the brown bullhead cancers, confirmed that sick fish are indicators of environmental contamination and that Memphremagog’s waters are environmentally contaminated.
In addition, a 2019 sampling of the effluent from the Newport Waste Water Treatment Facility by the ANR, showed that levels of PFAS chemicals, a proven threat to human and environmental health, were four times higher than the ANR standard for PFAS in drinking water.
Since Lake Memphremagog is a drinking water source for 175,000 Quebec citizens, as well as a habitat for fish and wildlife and recreational resource for swimmers, the issue becomes an international concern as well as a local one.
The group says that between 2010 to 2019, over 34-million gallons of PFAS laden leachate were disposed of, untreated, directly into the Clyde River and on into Memphremagog.
A ban on leachate disposal was imposed in 2019 pending further study, but DUMP says the damage done by toxic PFAS chemicals cannot be easily, if ever, undone.
A recent study has confirmed for the first time the presence of contaminants from the PFAS family in the city of Sherbrooke’s drinking water intake in Lake Memphremagog.
The group says a lake in crisis designation would bring further attention and resources to those provided by the existing Basin 17 Plan and could help speed progress to prevent further degradation of the water quality, as well as hopefully remediate environmental contamination that has already occurred.
“The question is not if, but when the cumulative environmental damage from all of these threats becomes too great to repair,” a statement issued by DUMP reads.
The group says the lake in crisis designation will increase eligibility for funding to address those challenges, as well as improve conditions for fishing, swimming, boating, and other recreational activities.
The designation will also limit phosphorous/nutrient runoff to prevent blue-green algae blooms, and help control invasive species such as Eurasian mil-foil and Starry Stonewort.
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