News Feature | December 20, 2013

Vermont Gets Serious About Lake Champlain Phosphorus

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Vermont is ramping up its efforts to get phosphorus out of Lake Champlain, a major drinking water source for state residents.

State and federal environmental agencies began a series of public meetings this month "about a new plan to curb excessive pollution from Vermont into Lake Champlain," VPR reported

“What this process is really about at the end of the day is an accountability moment,” said Anthony Iarrapino, a senior attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation, in the report.

Vermont's regulations on this issue are convoluted, and have been for a long time. 

"The problems with Vermont’s water pollution policy date back more than a decade when the EPA approved a plan – called a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) – to limit phosphorus pollution from various sources into Lake Champlain. Under the Clean Water Act, states are allowed to administer the act independently, but their plans for enforcement and permits must be approved by the EPA," the report said. 

But complications arose when the EPA approved a state plan in 2002. A lawsuit alleged that it did not fulfill the terms of the Clean Water Act. "The EPA settled that suit, and in 2011 reversed its approval of the state’s 2002 plan for water pollution," the report said.

The current round of meetings is intended to reset state policy direction on cleaning up the lake. Participants are working from a policy proposal released last month. 

VTDigger noted that the effort will not be easy. The state's Lake Champlain cleanup will be "complex" and could significantly "alter the state’s farmland, forests and streams over the next decade."

The proposal "includes tightening the state’s agriculture programs, stormwater management practices, ensuring river channel stability, updating forest management practices and watershed protection plans," the report said. 

Local cities could see a large positive impact if the new proposal is implemented, according to the St. Albans Messenger. The plan would "reduce the phosphorus in St. Albans Bay by 55 percent, enough to meet current water quality standards," the report said. 

"Vermont’s share of phosphorus pollution is 65 percent relative to its neighbors New York and Quebec," VTDigger said. 

For comprehensive coverage of nutrient issues, check out Water Online's previous reporting here.

Image credit: " Lake Champlain," © 2007 Ctwirler12, used under an Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license:

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