Two years ago, our Supreme Court voted to allow “open access” to year-round fishing, seasonal canoeing and kayaking, and even swimming in Montpelier’s sole source of drinking water, Berlin Pond. You may have driven by the pond, on the west side of Interstate 89 at Exit 7. Before May 2012, the pond was off limits to any recreation other than bird-watching from its shores or running, walking or cycling on the surrounding roadways. Berlin Pond, a small, shallow and silt-bottomed body, has already changed.
The drinking water of our Capital City is now additionally threatened by a proposal to increase “open access” with the construction of a boat launch and boat washing station on the pond, bringing with it the possibility of gasoline and other fuel leaks from snowmobiles, trucks or ice augers, all of which transportation and recreation devices are currently allowed on or near the pond. Prolonged or increased human contact will necessitate the increase of chlorine to disinfect Montpelier’s drinking water, and without expensive changes to the filtration plant, petroleum contamination cannot be filtered or even detected.
Water recreation on a municipal drinking water source the size of Berlin Pond should not be allowed. Excellent fishing and boating ponds, lakes and rivers abound in our beautiful state, many within an hour’s drive of the capital area.
Citizens to Protect Berlin Pond has petitioned our state’s Agency of Natural Resources to restore the pond to its protected status. On May 27 from 6 to 8 p.m., at the Berlin Elementary School, the ANR will hold a public hearing on this petition.
The number of people present at this hearing who are in favor of returning the pond to full protection will affect the ANR’s final decision.
We are asking everyone who cares about clean drinking water to be present.
The petition has the full backing of Montpelier Mayor John Hollar, the Montpelier City Council, Montpelier Conservation Commission and Berlin Conservation Commission.
Please contact your legislators, or Laura Wood at the Department of Environmental Conservation, and ANR Secretary Deborah Markowitz about this matter.
As you know, our state is recognized as a national leader in environmental protection. To have its capital city’s drinking water supply marginalized would have, we believe, consequences far beyond Vermont.
This is not a Montpelier problem. The ANR decision will affect every city and town and hamlet in our state, and will have a long-term ripple effect across our nation.
Joseph Whelan is the secretary and Melissa Perley is the president of Citizens to Protect Berlin Pond.MORE IN Commentary
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