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Lake Champlain Legal History


Based on the Vermont Water Quality Standards, Lake Champlain is a Class B water and has the designated uses of drinking water, irrigation, swimming, boating, fishing, and wildlife habitat. However, excessive phosphorus has impaired the lake and limited its use. Under the federal Clean Water Act, Vermont is required to submit a pollution budget – officially called a Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL – to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help manage the phosphorus pollution.

On August 14, 2015, the EPA released a draft TMDL for Lake Champlain. The TMDL sets how much phosphorus pollution the lake can absorb and still support its designated uses. The amount of phosphorus currently in the lake is above this healthy threshold, and therefore the TMDL calls for reductions in phosphorus loading into the lake. Click here to view CLF’s comments on the draft Lake Champlain TMDL.

Leading up to the release of the draft 2015 TMDL, EPA and Vermont have shared a long history of setting cleanup plans for Lake Champlain, as demonstrated below.

Lake Champlain TMDL Timeline

September 25, 2002: State of Vermont submits the Lake Champlain Phosphorus TMDL to EPA for review and approval

November 4, 2002: EPA approves Vermont’s TMDL

October 28, 2008: CLF files suit against EPA seeking to set aside the approval of the 2002 Vermont TMDL claiming it is inconsistent with the federal Clean Water Act

January 24, 2011: EPA withdraws its approval of the Vermont TMDL

2011 – 2015: EPA and the State of Vermont develop a new TMDL

May 29, 2014: State of Vermont releases Vermont Lake Champlain Phosphorus TMDL Phase 1 Implementation Plan

August 14, 2015: EPA releases the final draft Phosphorus TMDL for Vermont Segments of Lake Champlain