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Rutland Pursues Wastewater Treatment Plant Fixes, As Sewage Overflows Continue

Rutland is one of more than a dozen Vermont municipalities with a combined sewer system. When the city's water treatment system is overloaded, untreated sewage and runoff flows out of this pipe into a local creek.
Taylor Dobbs
VPR File
Rutland is one of more than a dozen Vermont municipalities with a combined sewer system. Heavy rain led to an overflow of Rutland's wastewater treatment plant and more than half a million gallons of raw sewage spilling into Otter Creek this week.

Rutland's wastewater treatment plant overflowed during heavy rainstorms earlier this week, dumping more than 500,000 gallons of untreated sewage into Otter Creek.Sewage overflows are not new. They are a problem around the state and happen when wastewater treatment plants are overwhelmed by stormwater runoff.

Jeff Wennberg, Rutland's commissioner of public works, said there is no silver bullet to solving the overflow problem. Instead, the city is pursuing improvements in infrastructure and in data collection.

"We're going to need some green infrastructure, we're going to need as much data infrastructure as makes sense," Wennberg said. "And we're going to need probably tens of millions of dollars of grey infrastructure, which is great big concrete tanks and treatment systems and so forth."

Rutland has reported several overflows this summer, as has Burlington. But Wennberg said that, in the grand scheme of things, wastewater treatment has greatly improved in the decades since the Clean Water Act came into effect.

"The overflows are sort of like that last, most difficult part of the problem to resolve," Wennberg said.

Wennberg said these issues will likely take decades to solve completely.

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