Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) Sees Hope at Last for Lake Champlain in EPA Decision to Update Water Quality Plan

Claire Morgenstern

CONTACT:
Louis Porter, CLF,
Karen Wood, CLF, (617) 850-1722

MONTPELIER, VT  January 24, 2010 – The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) has issued the following statement in response to today’s decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw its approval of Vermont’s 2002 water quality plan for Lake Champlain. The decision comes almost two years after CLF first challenged EPA’s approval of the Plan in federal court.

“Today’s decision by the EPA to re-examine Vermont’s water quality plan for Lake Champlain is the key to bringing the Lake back to health,” said Louis Porter, CLF’s Lake Champlain Lakekeeper. “The EPA has reviewed the existing pollution budget and concluded, correctly, that there has not been enough improvement in the health of Lake Champlain under the current plan. Now, with a new administration in Vermont and a new water quality plan on the way, Vermont can begin a new, science-based approach to cleaning up Lake Champlain and making sure it remains a safe and enjoyable resource for swimmers, boaters, anglers, and the more than 200,000 people for whom it provides drinking water.”

In its decision, issued today, the EPA concluded that Vermont’s 2002 water quality plan that set phosphorus targets for discharges into Lake Champlain, did not satisfy federal Clean Water Act requirements.  EPA found that the pollution budget (known as Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL) did not provide sufficient assurance that phosphorus reductions from polluted runoff will be achieved, and it did not provide an adequate margin of safety to account for uncertainty in the analysis. EPA will now begin the process of drafting an up-to-date pollution budget that accurately accounts for important factors affecting pollution reduction in the Lake. That process will include an EPA-funded study of the potential effects of climate change.

Porter continued, “CLF applauds EPA’s willingness to do the hard work necessary to clean up the Lake. By acknowledging the flaws in the existing TMDL, including allowing wastewater treatment plants to use it to expand their pollution discharges, as well as insufficient accounting for phosphorus contributions from sources of polluted runoff, EPA has set the stage for implementing serious phosphorus reduction programs that will at last begin to have measurable results. We are looking forward to working with the State and EPA to advance this effort.”

In 2008, CLF filed a federal lawsuit appealing the EPA’s decision to approve the Lake Champlain Phosphorus TMDL.  In response to CLF’s suit, EPA concluded that it should reconsider the legal and scientific underpinnings of the 2002 TMDL and reached a settlement with CLF allowing EPA time to complete the reconsideration.  A federal judge approved the settlement in August 2010, allowing EPA to conduct the reconsideration that resulted in today’s decision that a new, more effective pollution budget is needed.

The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) protects New England’s environment for the benefit of all people. Using the law, science and the market, CLF creates solutions that preserve natural resources, build healthy communities, and sustain a vibrant economy region-wide. Founded in 1966, CLF is a nonprofit, member-supported organization with offices in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

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