Guest Blog: Why I Care about the Health of Lake Champlain


Richard Butz is a boater, boat builder, and water lover who lives in Bristol, Vermont. Richard has advocated for our waterways for years, including as co-founder of the Buffalo Maritime Center, former board member and chair of the Buffalo Niagara River Keeper, and current board member of the Addison, Vermont, River Watch Collaborative.

Why should we care about Lake Champlain? We all know about the effect nutrient loading is having on the lake if we’ve been paying attention at all. And we know that cyanobacteria are blooming in many of the bays where we swim, keep our boats, jog and bike along the shore and so on. But did you know that researchers are zeroing in on a significant link between long-term exposure to cyanobacteria and maladies such as ALS, Parkinson’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases?

Researchers at UVM, the ALS Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and many others are studying clusters of ALS patients who live downwind from cyanobacteria-infested lakes and rivers in New England – including Lake Champlain. They are also questioning whether the airborne neurotoxin BMAA, which is produced by blue-green algae, is being atomized and traveling through the air where it is then inhaled by animals and us.

So, do you swim in Lake Champlain? Do you kayak or boat in the lake? Do you water ski? Do you jog along the lake? If so, you’d better care about this emerging research and the cause of the blooms.

I learned about this issue by attending several meetings at All Soul’s Interfaith Gathering in Shelburne, Vermont, over the last few months. And the comments by Chris Kilian, an attorney with Conservation Law Foundation, really fired me up. According to Chris, it’s time to act. We’ve studied the causes of the nutrient loading enough; we know where it’s coming from and we need to get to work, NOW, regardless of what our political and business leaders are saying about taking time and measured responses.

So I joined Conservation Law Foundation yesterday and plan to support their work. If you care, you ought to give CLF a look.

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