Stormwater runoff that carries sediments and nutrients is a primary pollutant entering surface waters in the State of Vermont. Phosphorus pollution is driving cyanobacteria blooms in many of our lakes including Lake Champlain, Lake Carmi, and Lake Memphremagog, especially in the warmer months. Warmer weather patterns and an increased frequency of extreme storms are predicted with climate change. As such, there is critical need to take action on the land to minimize and treat stormwater runoff on-site.
The State adopted a Clean Water Act in 2015, which was swiftly followed by a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for Lakes Champlain and Memphremagog, and that was preceded by a TMDL for Lake Carmi. Each TMDL has an associated implementation and/or tactical basin plan that defines actions to address phosphorus transport in these watershed drainage areas. Other watersheds of the state also have land use practices guided by tactical basin plans.
Green infrastructure practices are commonly recommended to address phosphorus pollution. Green infrastructure practices are nature-based solutions that clean and minimize stormwater runoff on-site. They include rain gardens and other types of bioretention basins, permeable pavers, green roofs, bioswales, and infiltration basins, among a variety of other systems that mimic nature to infiltrate, store and/or treat stormwater runoff to reduce its volume and clean it before it enters surface waters.
While green infrastructure practices and other nature-based stormwater management solutions have become more and more commonplace in the state since the 1990s, understanding and awareness of the need for maintenance of these systems has grown overtime. Some installations have lost capacity to sustain their stormwater treatment and mitigation capabilities as a result of insufficient maintenance. In fact, long-term performance of green infrastructure practices is distinctly related to successful long-term maintenance.
Act 76, Vermont’s Clean Water Service Delivery Act of 2019 sets forth requirements for the creation of an operation and maintenance (O&M) program for non-regulatory clean water projects funded through Clean Water Service Providers (CWSPs). The program will be complex, replete with new funding mechanisms, new policy and procedural guidelines, and a community of practice comprised of a myriad of stakeholders. In addition, it will include comprehensive training on the contents of a new Operations and Maintenance Standards Manual that was developed in 2020 by Hoyle, Tanner and Associates. This manual standardizes operations and maintenance procedures across land use types – from agriculture to developed lands and natural resources. This manual was nearing completion as this literature review and comparative analysis was conducted.
The Operations and Maintenance Standards defined in the manual will need to be implemented by a capable and qualified suite of professionals who understand the general designs, functions, and required maintenance needs and timing for a variety of types of green infrastructure practices over time. These individuals will require training and both the individuals and the State may benefit if they are required to become certified to carry out maintenance on green infrastructure installations, as formalizing the training may add a level of quality assurance and control over the maintenance practices implemented by the contractors. As the program and its methods are being developed, it is helpful to ask: how do we engender quality maintenance practices? This paper looks at one possible tool: a certification program.
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Companion, Marc; Hildebrand, Anna; and Stepenuck, Kristine, "Literature Review and Comparative Analysis of Existing Certification and Training Programs Applicable to Clean Water Project Operations and Maintenance" (2021). Lake Champlain Sea Grant Institute. 2.