State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2008VT32B
Title: Treatment Solutions to Reduce Nutrient and Bacterial Inputs to Lake Champlain at Shelburne Farms
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2009
End Date: 2/28/2010
Congressional District: First
Focus Categories: Water Quality, Non Point Pollution, Agriculture
Keywords: Livestock waste, agriculture, phosphorus, E.coli
Principal Investigators: Wang, Deane; McIntosh, Alan (University of Vermont)
Federal Funds: $ 13,315
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 69,115
Abstract: Ecological and recreational functions of Lake Champlain are increasingly threatened by high concentrations of contaminants such as phosphorus which promotes the growth of algae and aquatic plants. Of the 80% of phosphorus entering the lake from non-point sources, approximately 55% is contributed by agricultural activities (Lake Champlain Steering Committee, 2003). Animal waste from agricultural livestock also contributes to harmful strains of bacteria that threaten the health of individuals swimming at public beaches or drinking the water. At Shelburne Farm, a non-profit education center and working dairy farm located directly on Lake Champlain, water quality was monitored in 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2008 to determine concentrations of nutrients and bacteria entering Lake Champlain. The results indicate unacceptable levels of phosphorus and E. coli enter the lake in runoff from agricultural areas during storm events. Shelburne Farm intends to serve as a model of environmental stewardship by considering ecological, practical, and cost-effective remediation strategies that will improve the water quality of runoff entering the lake and to provide an education function in demonstrating new treatment technologies. This project will require a multi-scale approach considering: 1) the watershed scale, to develop an ArcGIS flow path model to characterize the relationship between surface flow from the farm landscape into Lake Champlain; 2) the farm scale, to consider land use structure and livestock management activities; and 3) the site scale, to develop a design for a system to treat contaminated runoff from key areas. The focus of this initial effort will be the implementation of a vegetative treatment system (VTS) designed to treat runoff from the dairy barnyard source area. We hypothesize that vegetated treatment systems such as vegetated gravel wetlands designed for agricultural runoff in primary source locations are ecological, practical, and cost-effective solutions for reducing phosphorus, nitrogen, total suspended solids (TSS), and E.coli concentrations, decreasing the contribution to surface water sources such as Lake Champlain. We will test this hypothesis by installing a site-specific vegetated gravel wetland for runoff from the dairy barnyard and evaluating the performance for treating dairy barnyard runoff by comparing concentrations of total phosphorus (TP), total suspended solids (TSS), and E.coli from the influent and effluent of the system, adjusting for flow rates, over a one-year period. The practicality of the system will be assessed by documenting costs, space requirements, and maintenance, to share with farmers and agricultural agencies. We will explore the transferability of the system to other dairy farms by conducting interviews and site analyses of the dairy barnyards of 16 participating farmers. This project will be used to educate the public about opportunities to improve the health of Lake Champlain through innovative, yet practical solutions for stormwater management on farms.

Progress/Completion Report, 2008, PDF
Progress/Completion Report, 2009, PDF

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