By Associated Press - Friday, October 5, 2018

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Six groups are sharing $250,000 in funding for projects to extract phosphorus from the waste stream or soils as Vermont tries to reduce the polluted runoff that causes toxic algae blooms in Lake Champlain.

Republican Gov. Phil Scott and administration officials announced the winners of Vermont’s Phosphorus Innovation Challenge Friday.

Among them, Green Mountain Biochar in Barton was awarded $30,000 to develop biochar from local organic waste that can be used to absorb phosphorus in soils while producing a soil fertilizer. The village of Essex Junction, Chittenden County Solid Waste District and University of Vermont won a $45,000 grant to use pipe-descaling technology to remove phosphorus in wastewater applications.

The prototype projects will take about a year to develop. The state will pick winners for the third phase of the challenge, focusing on cost-effectiveness and ways to turn the phosphorus into products.

“We face a significant phosphorus balance here in Vermont, on the order of 1,500 tons a year, and so the sooner we can get at reducing that imbalance and trying to get back closer to a zero sum game where we’re using or bringing the same amount of phosphorus into Vermont that we’re exporting in agricultural products, ultimately the better it will be for the water environment,” said Julie Moore, secretary of the Natural Resources Agency.

The Environmental Protection Agency has mandated that Vermont reduce phosphorus runoff into the lake. The state is seeking a long-term funding source for the cleanup. The legislature outlined a plan in 2015 calling for several steps, including the management of manure from farms, buffer zones near waterways and ditches, and the reduction of runoff from parking lots.

Scott’s administration has estimated the state will need up to $25 million annually over the next 20 years for lake cleanup.

“We don’t believe that there’s a singular solution to the phosphorus challenges Vermont faces but rather a toolbox,” Moore said.

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