#5 – Algae and phosphorus are Lake Champlain’s worst enemies

Upon researching more about contaminates in Lake Champlain, I see facts reassuring what I heard in my interviews. Algae and phosphorus are Lake Champlain’s worst enemies. It all starts with phosphorus, and phosphorus is made from “…manure and fertilizer from fields, sewage spills and overflows from wastewater treatment facilities and stream bank sediments.” When phosphorus is combined with warm temperatures, algae blooms are the result, and they are very harmful to the environment. Another inconvenience is that phosphorus is way above the targeted amount. That is also making it difficult to clean the lake.

Vermont is the leading source of the pollution in Lake Champlain. Statistics say that Vermont contributes 69% of the pollution to the lake. Another polluter is in play, nitrogen. Although not as common now as phosphorus, it can and does make harmful algae blooms. In fact, nitrogen is the thing that makes algae blooms harmful in the first place. In the reports sent out about this topic, nitrogen wasn’t as popular as phosphorus was, but it still to blame for this. Ironically, some of the acts to clean up the lake require nitrogen.

In some parts, particularly in the St. Alban’s part of the lake, have been clean. Crystal clear, and transparent. People are amazed and thought their lake was finally clean. But all good things must come to an end. The slime on the surface started creeping in after swimming season ended. However, people are still hopeful that this pattern could be the key to cleansing our beloved lake.

As we already know, Lake Champlain is the leading source of drinking water for 200,000 people in more than 15 towns and cities across Vermont (according to the Environmental Protection Agency). But, Tom Dion, the chief operator of the Burlington Wastewater Treatment Plant, says that there are no signs that the algae blooms have affected the drinking water in any way. Phosphorus and nitrogen are filtered through this plant, so none of it ends up in our tap water.

I’ve already named a couple of groups that have set their heart on cleaning our lake. The Environmental Protection Agency, and the Burlington Wastewater Treatment Plant. There are many more, of course. Gov. Peter Shumlin passed a “water quality bill”. He also said at the bill signing, that he is going to safeguard what “makes Vermont so special.” Besides maple syrup. Also, a program based on and dedicated to cleaning the lake,  Lake Champlain Basin Program. This program is responsible for monitoring the lake and making the report (that I mentioned earlier) that shows how the clean up is going, and how much phosphorus and algae blooms are in the water. Also, the last group I found was the Lake Champlain Committee, which has the same purpose as all the other named organizations. From my sources, it sounds like they are all for cleaning up our lake, but it doesn’t exactly say it in fine print. I inferred their perspectives, but from what I read, that’s what it sounded like.

I believe that things that unite people are common beliefs, common perspectives, connections that they have, and like Simon Sinek said, leaders. There are also so many more reasons why people unite, such as common goals, or the same inspiration.

Division among people is caused when everything opposite of what I just said happens, and more. Uncommon beliefs, uncommon perspectives, or they are unable to connect to each other. I think these things happen, whether uniting or dividing, are bound to happen eventually. Sometimes, people will fight through it, and sometimes people will break and argue. Then people will divide even more.

So I think that is one of the main reasons why we are making teams dedicated to one issue that everyone can find common ground on. So we can unify, instead of break apart.

One of my most pressing questions is this. What is the best way we can cut every level of pollution in Lake Champlain efficiently with the resources we have? I have ideas, but I’m trying to get to the most efficient way possible.


Olson, Sarah. “Report Shows No Progress on Lake Champlain Cleanup | VTDigger.” VTDigger. N.p., 05 July 2015. Web. 04 Oct. 2016.

Walsh, Molly. “Fewer Algae Blooms in Hard-Hit Bays Could Point the Way to Cleanup.” Sevendaysvt.com. N.p., 24 Aug. 2016. Web. 4 Oct. 2016.

Featured image is courtesy of Lake Champlain International.

Hey! I'm an 8th grader from Vermont. I used to live in Georgia for 7 years. I enjoy swimming, biking, reading, acting, singing, making music, listening to music, archery, and much more! I've been described as organized, kind, respectful, funny, and easy to get a long with. Along with singing and acting, I also play the Baritone Saxophone in the school band. I am currently 13 years old, but I'm am close to 14. I have 5 brothers, 1 sister, 2 nephews, 2 nieces, and over 10 cousins. It's a pretty hectic family, and I'm the youngest out of most of them. And don't forget, read my blogs, and for now, thanks for reading this!

4 Responses to “#5 – Algae and phosphorus are Lake Champlain’s worst enemies

  • Bob Uhl
    7 years ago

    Good work once again, Bryce. I like that you’ve identified a few people and organizations who are some of the characters in this story. I’m particularly interested in a few of the other points you mention here, primarily that algae blooms are the result of phosphorus plus warmer temperatures. That makes me wonder if climate change could be influencing–or could influence in the future–the pollution of Lake Champlain. Also, it makes sense that 69% of the lake’s pollution comes from Vermont, given how much of the body of water is in our state. (My guess is that the rest comes from New York and potentially Canada.) Of that 69%, I’m curious about how much comes from agricultural practices. Vermont is a state known for its farming, and lots of farmers use fertilizer that contains nitrogen and phosphorus. Unfortunate that some of the chemicals that help plants grow are also harmful to our water supply.

    Until next time!

    • Mr. Uhl,
      I have thought as climate change being a factor to this issue. But, this post was running on more than 750 words, and I didn’t want to bore the reader. Plus, I was thinking I could use climate change as another point of evidence for another post or something like that. On Tuesday, my class took a field trip to Shelburne Farms, and we learned what they are doing to reduce their impact on Lake Champlain, so I can also use that as a possible solution to some other lakes with this problem.

      Thanks for all or your support!

  • Hey Bryce! You’re making really good progress on your topic! You have a lot of really good, specific information that will allow you to develop a solution. By identifying the two most harmful chemicals, you can begin finding a way to reduce these two chemicals, whether it’s banning the usage of phosphorus in fertilizer or figuring out a more effective way to remove phosphorus from the lake. Unfortunately, phosphorus is a naturally occurring chemical so we can’t eliminate it completely, but decreasing human contribution seems like it would help.

    You’ve also identified a number of groups that are already working to improve Lake Champlain’s habitat, and I think that’s really important. Once you begin work on your project, you can reach out to them for information and assistance. It’s also beneficial that our governor is interested in this issue, because he could be a resource for you as well.

    Overall, I think you’re in a really good place right now and I see you being able to succeed immensely with this project.

    • Hey Anna,
      Thank you for your feedback. I didn’t realize when I wrote this that phosphorus is naturally occurring, but I do now. If there is a team for this topic, I will take what you said in mind; reaching out to groups and organizations for assistance, and more information. And again, thank you for all of your helpful criticism and support!

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