DERBY — The Derby Select Board voted unanimously on Monday night to lend their support toward getting Lake Memphremagog declared a “lake in crisis.”
The vote authorizes Select Board Chairman Grant Spates to draft a letter supporting a petition put out by local conservation group Don’t Undermine Memphremagog’s Purity (DUMP).
The petition, which currently has over 2,780 signatures, as well as the Select Board’s letter, will be sent to the Vermont Department of Natural Resources.
“I support the efforts of all groups working to improve the water quality of Lake Memphremagog as it’s a vital asset for locals as well as recreational tourism that includes, swimming, fishing, and all boating activities,” Spates said.
Since Lake Memphremagog is a drinking water source for 175,000 Quebec citizens, the issue of water quality becomes an international concern as well as a local one.
“Having a clean lake is imperative when you look at those that rely on it for drinking water and not just for recreational activities,” Spates added.
DUMP says the lake in crisis designation will bring attention and resources to prevent further degradation of water quality, and possibly remediate environmental contamination that has already occurred.
The 2017 “Basin 17 Memphremagog Plan” was designed to address pollution problems in the lake, which included dangerous Cyano-bacteria blooms and established invasive species.
Since then, other symptoms of the ill-health of the lake have surfaced that were not included in previous studies.
Among these issues is that an estimated 25-40 percent of the brown bullhead fish population in the South Bay and Hospital Cove were found with cancerous lesions.
At an ANR public meeting in December of 2020, Secretary Moore confirmed that sick fish are indicators of environmental contamination and that Memphremagog’s waters are environmentally contaminated.
A 2019 sampling of the effluent from the Newport Waste Water Treatment Facility by the ANR also 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.
“I am pleased but not surprised that the Derby Select Board has endorsed the petition to declare Memphremagog a lake in crisis,” Effie Brown, a member of DUMP, said. “My love for the lake and the surrounding communities is strong, and my concern for the purity of the waters of Lake Memphremagog has been growing over the past several years as I learned about the threat to water quality from many sources, including runoff from fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and landfill leachate.”
The lake in crisis law has four criteria to be met:
1. That the lake or sections of the lake are impaired. Two sections are currently labeled impaired and highly disturbed by the ANR.
2. That there is potential for risk to public health. Brown says if there is something causing cancer in fish, it is reasonable to wonder if that might threaten public health.
3. That there is a risk to the environment and natural resources.
4. A drop in property values around the lake. Brown says that this is the least of their concern, but that when these other criteria are addressed and the health of the lake is restored, the economy, including property values, will be protected.
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