Phosphorus Pollution of Lake Champlain Presentation prepared for the municipal offices of: Plattsburg, NY and Burlington, VT Video narration by Shana Ritch, Lead Environmental Engineer of BGP (Being Green Pays)
The Phosphorus Cycle Lake Champlain has been subjected to many years of pollution; below describes how phosphorus cycles through our environment. The resolutions discussed in this presentation redirect the phosphorus cycle at fertilization and water filtration.
Results of Phosphorus Pollution When algae blooms have appeared, pollution has become violent. Algae absorbs oxygen and sunlight (vital abiotic surroundings) for survival. Consequently, the blanket of algae prevents the rest of the aquatic ecosystem from thriving. Lake Champlain is home to several farms and excessive amounts of fertilizer is utilized to maintain these farms and manage demand. Unfortunately, it has lead to toxic runoff that provides nutrients for naturally occurring algae. The levels of phosphorus provide an 'all-you-can-eat' buffet for these algae, resulting in algae blooms. The ultimate decomposition of the algae creates a toxic environment for other organisms, including land dwelling animals. Not to mention this type of toxicity develops an unpleasant aroma, a natural deterrent to local and traveling visitors. This ends in lost capital due to under-utilized resources. Phosphorus pollution is a vicious cycle that diminishes a healthy, profitable economy. Algae Bloom Decreased Oxygen and Sunlight Environmental Toxicity
Contributing Factors 1. Point Source - Waste water treatment and industrial discharges make up 20% of the excess phosphorus deposited into lakes 2. Non-point Source- Runoff from roads, agriculture land, septic systems, and lawns equals 80% of the phosphorus pollution 3. CAFO - Concentrated animal feeding operations have a significant impact on phosphorus pollution based on dietary practices and waste runoff ** Additional information may be reviewed by selecting underlined words, otherwise please click mouse to continue the presentation Runoff reaches rivers, streams, and finally the ocean. Some is recycled through seabirds who prey on ocean fish and deposited on land as guano (bird feces). Most is deposited on the sea floor where it is lost for millions of years.
Working Solutions There are already organizations in place working to minimize and possibly resolve many of the pollution problems facing Lake Champlain as represented by the two following links. Lake Champlain Land Trust Lake Champlain Basin Program These two organizations are actively following the principles listed to restore the health of a decaying ecosystem and ultimately revitalize a local economy that supports national product demands. Public education and awareness Continued CAFO regulations as found here Monitor, regulate and improve waste-water facilities Practice Best Management Practices as suggested here ** Additional information may be reviewed by selecting underlined words, otherwise please click mouse to continue the presentation Sadly, all of these practices still fail to fully repair the extensive damage to Lake Champlain. They require time and resources that state governments have difficulty acquiring. There are other potentialities that may support the financial burdens of these concepts and could even provide new innovative jobs.
Proposed Solutions Containment of manure in bins will not only prevent excess phosphorus runoff, but can later be used as compost and then fertilizer. This will decrease the amount of phosphorus needed from mines and prevent loss of phosphorus on the ocean floor. As you may have seen under the links in Contributing Factors and Working Solutions corn is a major component in feed for CAFO's. This unnatural diet for animals is an inexpensive way to maximize growth; it also increases marbling (considered high quality by the USDA). Corn requires an abundance of phosphorus to mature, a contributing factor of pollution in animal waste. Movement towards healthy, natural farm feed Strict enforcement on manure containment and clean up Mussel farms Mussels consume algae, plankton, bacteria, and are essential filters for most bodies of water, including fresh. If farmed and reintroduced into Lake Champlain, in time they will reduce the algae population, balance the ecosystem, and provide another source for food and income for local water people.
Financial Opportunities GREEN LOTTERY BLACKGOLD Purchasing tickets can be made on line Governmental subsidy awarded to a new start-up or restructuring of an existing business for CAFO manure collection Lottery will run for a 2 year trial basis Public Winnings will remain modest ($1-$5000) Local county business start-up grants for new fertilizer conversion company Proceeds will fund public awards and provide funding for grants for local small business growth dedicated to a healthy Lake Champlain Return on grants by sale of methane to natural gas company, division of state municipalities
Final Summary Hopefully this presentation has painted a clear picture of the current phosphorus cycle, as well as articulate how it should be. Lake Champlain is a focal point for the phosphorus pollution problem, although the issue is global. Not only do we overharvest phosphorus mines but we mass produce corn, a phosphorus greedy plant. As a culture we have chosen to maximize the potential uses of corn from fuel to wrapping paper and thus, changed our ecosystem. We at BGP project that significant results may arrive as early as 2015, if we act now; and as much as 65% of the ecosystem could recover by 2030, in the Lake Champlain area. The resolutions offered in this presentation could very well be a model for other locations with similar concerns. Thank you for your time, Shana Ritch Lead Environmental Engineer