89 Main St., Suite 4, Montpelier, VT 05602   

Vermont Water-wise Communities Initiative

GMWEA seeks the participation of all Vermont towns and cities in an exciting new project, the Vermont Water-wise Communities Initiative (VWCI).

Funded by a $9,860 grant from the Lake Champlain Basin Program, the VWCI will inform Vermont citizens about how they can reduce pollution in Vermont’s natural waters, including Lake Champlain. 

Most of us are familiar with the damaging effects of phosphate pollution and e. coli contamination in Vermont’s lakes.  Unfortunately, our contribution of pollutants doesn’t end there. The typical Vermont household flushes, pours, spills, or spreads a wide range of other harmful materials and chemicals:

  • Fats, oils, and greases (FOGs) such as bacon grease and frying oils clog pipes, pumps, and tanks;
  • Fibrous materials such as paper towels, tampons, Q-Tips, dental floss, and so-called “flushable” wipes cause treatment system blockages that are expensive to repair;
  • PPCPs – pharmaceuticals and personal care products -- such as antibiotics, anti-microbials, birth control pills, insect repellent, hair dyes, and laundry products end up in groundwater, rivers, and lakes, harming aquatic ecosystems;
  • Chemicals used in the garage, lawn, and garden – degreasers, solvents, waxes, paints, antifreeze, fertilizers, insecticides, and weed-killers -- wreak havoc in aquatic ecosystems, causing animal deformities and upsetting food chains.  

In homes with private septic systems, these contaminants impair system effectiveness and enter groundwater flow; also, when private septic tanks are pumped, the material is often taken to a municipal plant for treatment (see following).

Homes on town/city sewers release these contaminants directly to the inflows of their public wastewater treatment facilities.  The FOGs and fibrous materials cause blockages, requiring repairs and costing taxpayers money.  Many of the harmful chemicals cannot be detected or removed by facilities, so too many end up – invisible, but damaging – in our natural waters.

The only remedy is to prevent them from entering the water in the first place.  That means we citizens need to learn what NOT to allow into our wastewater (and stormwater) and how to properly dispose of pollutants.

Thanks to the LCBP grant, GMWEA is now developing a series of four informational brochures, to be sent to every city and town in Vermont.  Delivered to ratepayers with water/sewer bills, the brochures – along with website/blog postings and other media coverage – will inform Vermont households about how to reduce their outputs of ecosystem-damaging chemicals/materials and how to dispose of them properly. 

During March, 2019, GMWEA will be contacting all Vermont municipalities to solicit their participation. 


Q: How much does it cost?
A: GMWEA will supply the graphic layouts for brochures without charge.  Each municipality will need to pay for printing the brochures (one standard letter size page, black and white or color) on its office printers or using a local copying service. (Note: The program budget includes funds for GMWEA to print 12,000 brochures for municipalities which wouldn’t otherwise be able to participate.)

Q: What outreach activities and materials will GMWEA provide?

  1. Four ready-to-print brochures, each detailing one of the subsets of contaminants listed above and providing instructions for best-practice disposal methods.
  2. Four webpages, covering the same information, that cities/towns can post on their sites; the pages will also be hosted on www.gmwea.org, allowing cities and towns to simply post links to them.
  3. Conventional media coverage through extensive press communications.
  4. Social media outreach on website, blog, Facebook, and other platforms.

Q: When does the program start?  How long will it run?
A: We expect the first brochure and webpage to be ready for distribution in May, 2019. With brochures distributed quarterly, the program will finish in early 2020.

Q: How can my town participate?
A: Contact GMWEA executive director Daniel Hecht at
dan.hecht@gmwea.orgor (802) 595-0997 to learn more and to sign up.

Q: What is expected of participating cities/towns?

  1. Municipalities will receive the brochures as ready-to-print PDF files or format of choice. (Four selected towns may request pre-printed brochures.) Municipalities must then print the brochures and insert them into the next sewer/water bill or property tax bill mailing, or distribute them by other means. Ideally, dependent on your billing schedule, this will be done every three months for one year.
  2. Webpages and links will be provided at the same time, to post as desired. 
  3. GMWEA will conduct extensive press and social media outreach, but municipalities are encouraged to post news of the initiative on Front Porch Forum and other local media platforms.
  4. Toward the end of the one-year grant period, cities and towns will be asked to fill out a short questionnaire so that we can to assess how many towns distributed materials, how many households received them, and how effective recipients deemed the materials.  This information will help GMWEA, NEIWPCC and other organizations develop effective future outreach projects throughout the region.

Contact GMWEA executive director Daniel Hecht at
dan.hecht@gmwea.org or

(802) 595-0997 for more information or to sign up! 

GMWEA thanks our fiscal agent for the project, Vermont League of Cities and Towns; the Lake Champlain Basin Program; New England Interstate Pollution Control Council; and the U.S. EPA, original source of the funding.