Progress / Science

Thirty Years Floating on Vermont’s Acid Lakes

Jim Kellogg, Scientist

Environmental Scientist Jim Kellogg, heading out to test the waters of an acidified lake

In the winter of 1981, Jim Kellogg (a scientist with the Watershed Management Division) could be found skiing to, and drilling through the ice of some of the beautiful lakes and ponds in Vermont.  In the spring and fall, he would float on the ice cold waters of Vermont’s most remote lakes in an inflatable “belly boat.” He sampled these waterbodies in the winter, spring, summer and fall, regardless of weather conditions, to detect changes in water chemistry due to airborne pollution (i.e., acid rain).

For the past 30+ years Jim has tracked the changes to Vermont’s most sensitive acid lakes through continued water sampling. Major reductions in sulfur emissions have resulted in improvements in some ponds (see Haystack Pond’s graph of sulfate or SO4), while no change or declines have occurred in others. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to fund this research as a means to assess the impacts of the Clean Air Act on surface waters as more controls are enacted. Today, Jim still samples these lakes; however, now he does so in a survival suit and rugged inflatable raft. 

Improvements in sulfate (sulfate, or SO4, is a major cause of lake acidification)

Improvements in sulfate (sulfate, or SO4, is a major cause of lake acidification)

 

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