By Shari Halik, Communications
April 06, 2021
Have you heard about BLUE? BLUE is an innovative stormwater mitigation program that gives free consultations and certifies homes, businesses, and institutions as watershed-friendly in the Lake Champlain basin of Vermont and New York.
What is watershed-friendly? All land and properties in the watershed contribute stormwater runoff to Lake Champlain. In runoff, motor oil from a driveway, nutrients from animal waste, and excess nutrients from loose soil can eventually make their way to Lake Champlain. There are ways to minimize this runoff and lessen the pollutants it carries to help keep the lake and its waterways clean and healthy for all of us.
“Water is necessary for survival but also part of the aesthetics of our lives and the richness of our recreational activities,” said Juliana Dixon, manager of the BLUE stormwater certification program in the Lake Champlain basin since 2016. “Clean water is a legacy I want to leave my children and all children. Working to better steward our landscape and watershed is joyful work.”
Based on watershed-friendly practices implemented in six towns in the Lake Champlain basin and average Vermont annual rainfall, runoff-reducing projects instigated by BLUE captured an estimated 133,188 gallons of stormwater in 2020.
Common solutions to stormwater runoff might include: redirecting gutters, putting in a rain garden to treat driveway runoff, installing a permeable driveway that helps rainwater drain into the ground, or constructing an open top culvert across your driveway to collect runoff.
“After an evaluation of our home, we gladly took advantage of financial incentives to add on gutters and a driveway draining system into our garden to achieve the BLUE certification,” said Burlington, Vermont resident Christina Erickson.
Operating in the basin since 2006, BLUE has been supported by nine municipalities in the Lake Champlain watershed. BLUE currently receives support from the city of Burlington and towns of Colchester and Williston, which each offer its residents and business owners up to $300 in rebates for applicable runoff reducing property improvements. Funding provided by Lake Champlain Sea Grant supports the work in these three municipalities and beyond to extend the free property owner evaluations throughout the basin.
How does BLUE work?
In the Lake Champlain basin of Vermont and New York, every property owner can sign up for a free consultation by BLUE through the Vermont-based consulting company Salix Solutions at salix-solutions.com or through one of the three partner municipalities.
The consultation process starts with a home visit by a BLUE consultant who conducts an external evaluation of your property. The consultant will assess soil erosion, water drainage, water infiltration, and other characteristics. They will explain what is happening with stormwater drainage and runoff from your property as part of the larger watershed.
“We use a two-pillared approach to evaluate the property,” said Dixon, owner of Salix Solutions. “We look at how each property affects the watershed and how water affects the property.”
A BLUE consultant will also explain how infrastructure, habits, and land management and use, such as septic tanks, accumulation of animal waste or motor oil, or use of fertilizer and pesticides can impact what pollutants and nutrients drain to the lake.
“Lake Champlain is a significant driver of our regional economy, livelihoods, and public health,” said Dixon. It is cheaper to prevent water pollution and drinking water tragedies than it is to act afterwards. Participation in the BLUE program is an economic investment in the future of our state and basin.”
On site, the consultant will provide possibilities for remediation to your property and help to tailor recommendations to your needs. BLUE consultants have evaluated hundreds of properties in the basin and facilitated the installation of what is called “green stormwater infrastructure,” such as permeable driveways, rain gardens, rain barrels, berm/swale systems, driveway trenches, dry wells, gutter re-directs, and more to help reduce or divert the impacts of stormwater from properties.
Within a week, BLUE provides a written report outlining these recommendations, and you can decide which projects to tackle that best achieve the goal of stormwater mitigation and fit your budget and interests. You can choose to install treatments yourself, or BLUE will provide suggested contractors for installation work.
Once the installation is complete and approved by a BLUE consultant, you sign a homeowner agreement with them to signify that you will maintain watershed-friendly practices. The consultant sends you an official BLUE certificate, lawn sign, and stickers that you can proudly share with friends, family, and neighbors!
“I love when folks walking by [our home] ask about our sign, and I can tell them more about it,” said Erickson, who is Director of Service and Sustainability Learning at Burlington’s Champlain College and has partnered with Juliana Dixon on student service-learning projects and internships through BLUE. This collaboration resulted in the first institutional building to achieve BLUE certification, “with hopefully more to come,” added Erickson.
Salix Solutions staffs up to six BLUE consultants during the summer season. Sign up for a free BLUE consultation today!
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81 Carrigan Drive
Burlington, Vermont 05405
Phone: (802) 656-8504