Currently all Vermont lakes located outside of the Green Mountain National Forest and those below 2500’ elevation are, by default, classified as B(2). This type of classification is based on a lake’s water quality. B(2) lakes have a water quality of “good”.
The State of Vermont has asked Seymour lake Association (SLA) to consider filing a petition to reclassify Seymour Lake (which would include its watershed) as an A(1) water body to better reflect our high quality of water. They have also reached out to several other lakes in the state (including our neighbors Echo and Willoughby) that have high quality water. The reason the state is encouraging reclassification is because they’ve learned that once a B(2) water body is declared impaired, it is virtually impossible to reverse it, and they are now taking proactive actions to preserve what high quality waters we still have.
Restrictions that would come with A(1) classification
Currently there are three mandatory restrictions in Vermont statutes for an A(1) watershed. It is prohibited to have a new septic system that discharges 1,000 or more gallons of water a day. It is also prohibited to discharge any wastes that, prior to treatment, contain organisms pathogenic to humans. Finally, no siting of solid waste facilities or applications of biosolids or septage would be allowed in the watershed. The state recognizes that the septic system restriction is outdated and has indicated they plan to seek legislative approval to remove or change this restriction.
Benefits to reclassifying
The principal benefit for reclassification is to place a lake into the appropriate class corresponding with its actual water quality status and create a mechanism for a restorative action sooner if the lake becomes impaired for A(1) uses. Additionally, an A(1) lake could be eligible for technical assistance and funding to 1) keep its total phosphorus concentrations from ever exceeding the A(1) limits and becoming impaired and 2) to restore it to A(1) in the event that it does become impaired for A(1), similar to efforts made to restore lakes that are impaired for the B(2) class, like Lake Champlain and Lake Carmi.
What decisions has SLA made to date?
Because reclassification would impact not just the lakefront properties but the entire watershed (for Seymour that is 13,226 acres – see map below), the SLA Board of Directors feels that if we were to proceed with filing a petition for reclassification, we would want the support of the Morgan Selectboard. We have begun discussion with the Selectboard on the topic.
There are 2,004 acres in our watershed located in the Town of Holland. We would also seek the Holland Selectboard’s support should we decide to file a petition.
Because the current septic limitation would potentially limit the ability of many uses such as stores, schools, inns, and restaurants, we would want a change to this restriction approved by the legislature.
We would not file a petition for reclassification without a positive vote of SLA’s membership. Public information meetings would also be held to inform all property owners in the watershed and provide them an opportunity to comment.
Finally, we have authorized the establishment of an A(1) Investigation Committee which Peggy Barter (Water Quality Committee Chair) will Chair. They will continue to follow the state’s progress in finalizing the restrictions that will apply to A(1) watersheds; have conversations with water quality partners as well as neighboring lake associations and towns; follow the progress of any petition filed by other lakes; and finally make a recommendation to the SLA Board.
Seymour Lake’s Multiple Watershed are outlined in red below.
Reclassification Fact Sheet: Click Here to View
The Caledonian Record published three articles on this topic. The reporter, Katherine Fiegenbaum, did an excellent job explaining a reasonably complex topic. The third article features Seymour’s own Water Quality Chair, Peggy Barter. Links to the articles follow:
- Troubled Water – Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation Works With Lake Stewards to Reclassify, Protect Declining Lakes 9.21.2021 Click Here to View
- Troubled Water – NEK Lake Reclassification Efforts Advance 9.23.2021 Click Here to View
- Troubled Water – The Tale Of Seymour Lake 9.27.2021 Click Here to View