Free the compost!

I’m guessing a lot of folks got an exhortation to plant a rain garden in the junk mail in the last couple of weeks, just like chez Cooke-Smathers (link is to the full-blown piece, not the pocket-sized mailer).

Why the junk mail is there is as simple as following the money:

  • Lake Champlain is getting a buildup of phosphorus pollution, to the point that state entities are legally liable for cleaning it up.
  • Much of the phosphorus comes from “waste products,” aka poop: Cow poop, human poop and recycled poop in the form of fertilizer being three main sources.
  • Vermont isn’t going to do anything to stop cow poop from reaching Lake Champlain. Why? Well, they’re cows … and it’s Vermont. I blame Woody Jackson. He could have painted a Morgan horse, after all. Instead we got Love Thy Holstein.Image
  • If we can’t fix the cow poop, that means fixing the human/fertilizer waste streams getting into our, errr, streams.
  • Many, many, many towns have similar problems to Rutland: While they can control the routine sewage needs of their populace, the systems overflow, literally, in big storms and wash lots of phosphorus (and other pollutants) into the water, which on this side of the Greens means into the lake.
  • Too much runoff for too long and the EPA comes around with an order mandating communities build much bigger, much more efficient wastewater systems.
  • So those towns (and the state) need to control that outflow to head off the EPA, which means cajoling you, me and the guy down the block into controlling our runoff.

Got it? It’s enlightened self-interest on behalf of the state and local government. So here’s a suggestion: Don’t just send us a little flyer, make it easier to build a rain garden. We followed the money, now show us the money. Here’s how:

Compost is an essential element of a rain garden, which is a glorified ditch, filled with gravel, then dirt and compost mixed together to make a more-easily drained bed. Rainwater runs into the bed, sinks through the dirt and gravel and is filtered into the groundwater instead of running straight into streams and lakes. Build enough of them and the EPA goes away, Lake Champlain cleans up and we get to keep the cow cult, guilt-free.

Rutland has a big old compost pile at the dump. We users either drop off the lawn waste that makes the compost for free during the spring/fall amnesty periods or we pay $5 a pickup load to drop it off during the summer. How about when Rutland County Solid Waste District issues a dump sticker it also issues a permit to pick up a load of compost once or twice a year, same as with dropoffs? Make a big deal out of it: Compost amnesty week! Free the compost, save the lake!

As a way to encourage us to plant those rain gardens, you could call it a grassroots effort.


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