Press-Republican

Environment

February 21, 2014

Deadlines set for Vt. action on lake

MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermont officials are being asked to get serious and specific about cleaning up Lake Champlain.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced deadlines for the state to send finalized policy plans for reducing non-wastewater runoff into the lake.

Storm-water runoff containing phosphorus and other pollutants is causing excessive plant and algae growth in some areas of the lake, turning the water murky shades of green, brown or blue.

Officials and advocates say the pollution hurts tourism and recreation businesses dependent on clean water, depresses property values and increases the costs of drinking-water and waste-water treatment.

“That body of water is a different body of water today than what it was when I was a young lad fishing on its shores and catching frogs along its banks,” Vermont Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross said at the recent hearing.

REQUIRED REDUCTION

The EPA requires a 36 percent reduction in total maximum daily load, or TMDL. TMDL is a calculation of the maximum amount of pollutant that a body of water can receive and still meet water quality standards.

For Lake Champlain, this means cutting down on non-wastewater runoff full of sediment and other materials.

Vermont will be “leading the pack” with the state’s proposed goals, but specifics from the state by the end of March and a commitment letter from Gov. Peter Shumlin by the end of April will be required to move forward, according to the EPA’s Stephen Perkins.

If the deadlines are met, the EPA says it will have a finalized limit on runoff by the end of the summer.

CLEAN LAKE ‘CRITICAL’

In a statement, Shumlin said he will send a letter of commitment to the EPA, as required.

“My administration is committed to helping clean Lake Champlain and all state waters because they are critical to our quality of life and environment,” he said.

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