New Law Strengthens Lake Champlain Cleanup Plan Targets Blue-Green Algae-Causing Phosphorus

Brian Barth

Montpelier, VT (May 24, 2007) – A new bill signed into law today by Governor Jim Douglas is a big step toward revamping Vermont’s Lake Champlain cleanup plan, said the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF). The provisions, included in the larger H-154 stormwater bill, require an audit of the current Clean and Clear Initiative and aggressively target algae-bloom-causing phosphorus pollution.

“Blue-green algae is slowly choking the life out of Lake Champlain and phosphorus pollution is to blame,” said Tim Burke, CLF’s Lake Champlain Lakekeeper. “The provisions in this bill will hold the Clean and Clear program accountable and target the most persistent pollution problems threatening one of Vermont ’s greatest natural treasures.”

Phosphorus pollution is regulated by a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) plan adopted in 2002. At a legislative hearing earlier this year held by the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, experts testified that the phosphorus pollution reductions called for in the TMDL are not adequate to restore the Lake ’s water quality. Algae and weeds are problems in many areas of the Lake, with severe algae blooms occurring in Missisquoi Bay, Saint Albans Bay and the Northeast Arm of the Lake.

“We’ve long know that the existing TMDL cleanup plan was designed to fail,” said Chris Kilian, Director of CLF’s Vermont Advocacy Center. “Now it’s up to the state to uphold the Clean Water Act and correct past mistakes.”

The new Lake Champlain cleanup law:

  • Holds the Clean and Clear Program accountable by requiring a program audit to analyze the effectiveness of cleanup efforts that have cost almost $50 million in the past 3 years.
  • Requires state officials to re-open and strengthen the TMDL phosphorus reduction plan in 2008.
  • Targets the investment of taxpayer dollars in “critical source areas,” or areas where the pollution problems are the worst.
  • Caps pollution from sewage treatment plants at 2006 levels. Amazingly, the existing TMDL allows sewage plants to increase pollution from a low of 25 tons (achieved through investments of federal, state and local funds over the past 20 years) to 55 tons.

“Thankfully, the Legislature has set us on a path toward a cleaner Lake with a plan that will allow smart growth in our communities without growing pollution,” said Burke.

Conservation Law Foundation works to solve the most significant environmental challenges facing New England. CLF’s advocates use law, economics and science to create innovative strategies to conserve natural resources, protect public health and promote vital communities in our region. Founded in 1966, CLF is a nonprofit, member-supported organization.

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