Today Governor Peter Shumlin signed legislation known as H.35, which takes significant first steps toward cleaning up the devastating pollution that plagues Vermont’s waterways. CLF has pushed for years for government action to clean up Lake Champlain and other waterways in the state, and I was pleased to stand beside Governor Shumlin today as he signed this historic bill into law.
The legislative focus of H.35 was a long time coming and was spurred by the deterioration of Lake Champlain, the state’s most iconic waterbody. Like the Cuyahoga River in the 1960s, Lake Champlain’s pollution problem is so severe that it garners attention nationwide. The pollution’s effects are easy to see: Excessive phosphorous levels create toxic blue-green algae blooms that are not only ugly and odorous, but also harmful to people, wildlife, and aquatic plants. Warnings against swimming or fishing when these blooms appear have become all too common to both frustrated locals and disappointed tourists alike. With Lake Champlain an economic driver for the state, the impacts of its poor health are felt far beyond the lake itself.
The law signed by Governor Shumlin today aims to restore and protect Lake Champlain and other state waterways by overhauling Vermont’s water pollution control program. A significant piece of the bill includes measures to address runoff from roads, farms, and developed areas – all of which are major sources of phosphorus pollution. H.35 also opens the door for increased phosphorous control at municipal wastewater treatment sites and allows for a new program where Vermont’s Agency of Agriculture will implement pollution control mechanisms to aid in the clean up of our waters.
While H.35 shows promise, it is not a final answer. More needs to be done to ensure that Vermont’s precious waters remain healthy and vital. H.35 is a major and necessary step, but it is only the beginning in protecting Lake Champlain – and by extension the people, wildlife, and economic engines that depend on it. CLF will be taking an active role as the bill is put into action, to ensure that the full promise of the law is realized.
As a member of the CLF community, you have played a critical role in supporting the work that led to today’s landmark outcome. Thank you. Your voice will continue to be important as the legislation takes effect over the next five to ten years. We look forward to continuing to work with you to bring about cleaner, healthier waters across Vermont.