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February 27, 2012

Film series examines algae bloom in Lake Champlain

PLATTSBURGH — "Bloom," the saga, continues.

A little more than a year ago, Vermont filmmakers completed a short documentary on Lake Champlain's battle against growing blooms of blue-green algae caused by increased levels of phosphorus entering the lake.

"Bloom, The Plight of Lake Champlain," which won an Emmy, aired on public-television stations in New York and Vermont and fostered discussion focusing on what options were available to offset the growing problem.

Those same filmmakers have recently completed a series of follow-up episodes that look at the major contributors to increased phosphorus levels. The series airs on Mountain Lake Television, Channel 57 on Wednesday.

"The first episode was focused two-thirds on the problem and one-third on the solution (to phosphorus reduction)," said Jon Erickson, a professor and managing director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont.

"For these next three episodes, we've flipped that ratio as we dig deeper into the three principal contributors: wastewater, agriculture and urban stormwater."

MORE DEPTH

Phosphorus is a nutrient that is found naturally in the environment but can be enhanced by those three human factors and others.

When phosphorus levels increase, plant life benefits, including the potentially dangerous blue-green algae.

"The intent of the first film was to shed light on what phosphorus is and what it does," said Erickson, the series' executive director. "When we brought out the idea (for a film on the lake's algae bloom problems), we had visions for a longer series, but we had funds for only one film."

'LEFT HANGING'

Funding eventually became available through the Lintilhac Foundation, and the production crew returned to the lake last spring to continue filming efforts.

"We knew the first one left you hanging, but our goal was always to continue the story," Erickson said. "The whole series is more in depth, both with the problems and the solutions."

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