EPA seeks feedback on lake cleanup

MONTPELIER — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state of Vermont are seeking public input on a recently released draft proposal to restore the water quality in Lake Champlain. Also released is a timeline for completing the Lake Champlain restoration plan, which includes a number of opportunities for the public to get involved.
The EPA and state officials are holding a series of six public meetings in December, to discuss the draft “Proposal for a Clean Lake Champlain” — the state’s proposal for reducing water pollution that is degrading Lake Champlain and its tributaries. The meetings will be moderated by the Lake Champlain Basin Program and held in various communities around the region, with morning, afternoon, and evening sessions in an attempt to accommodate and encourage all interested persons to participate.
One of the meetings will be held in Middlebury on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 7-9 p.m. at the Middlebury Inn.
The public can also submit comments on the draft proposal to the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) by Jan. 17, 2014; send comments to Kari Dolan at the DEC ([email protected]).
Polluted stormwater runoff is causing excessive plant and algae growth in some areas of the Lake that turn water murky shades of green, brown, or blue. This pollution also increases the costs of drinking water and wastewater treatment, hurts businesses that depend on clean water such as tourism and recreation, and depresses property values. Excessive polluted runoff also harms local streams and rivers that feed into Lake Champlain.
“We love our lake,” said DEC Commissioner David Mears. “It is a source of fun and enjoyment for all of us across the four seasons, and it’s a critical component of our state’s heritage, culture, and economy. Because we love the lake, we must come together to act now to protect the lake from pollution.”
Vermont Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross is also behind a lake cleanup.
“We are proposing solutions that restore our treasured Lake Champlain, and which also preserve our working landscape of farms and forests,” Ross said in a press release. “We have a rich tradition of tackling tough problems in this state, and I look forward to hearing Vermonters’ thoughts about these solutions and other ideas for how we address the pollution problems facing the lake.”
“The very things that we do to make our transportation system more resilient can also serve to reduce polluted runoff and help control erosion,” said Transportation Secretary Brian Searles. He echoed Ross and Mears in observing that, “By working together, our agencies and communities across the Lake Champlain region can make investments that can improve our roads, our rivers, and the Lake.”
“EPA is glad to work closely with Vermont agencies and citizens to tackle the challenge of reducing the high nutrient levels that are impacting Lake Champlain,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of the EPA’s New England office. “During these upcoming meetings, we are eager to hear from Vermonters. We need to take big steps to improve water quality in the Lake, and this is an opportunity for people to help shape a plan to protect their Lake for their kids and grandkids to enjoy.”
Excess phosphorous from a variety of sources has impaired the water quality of Lake Champlain. In 2002, Vermont prepared a plan to reduce phosphorous loadings by developing a Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL. A TMDL places a cap on the maximum amount of phosphorous that is allowed to enter the lake and still meet Vermont’s water quality standards.
The EPA disapproved the Vermont 2002 Lake Champlain Phosphorus TMDL on Jan. 24, 2011. At that time the EPA approved some portions of the state’s cleanup plan, but reported that “the portions of the TMDL addressing the margin of safety and the establishment of wasteload allocations based on assumptions that nonpoint source reductions would be achieved are inadequate and inconsistent with EPA regulations and guidance.”
EPA is collaborating with VTDEC and other Vermont agencies to create a new TMDL; the draft of the plan is due next spring. More information on the process of creating that cleanup plan is online at www.epa.gov/region1/eco/tmdl/lakechamplain.html.
This month’s Lake Champlain Basin Phosphorus Clean Water Act TMDL public meetings are scheduled as follows:
•  Dec. 2, 2 – 4 p.m., St, Albans Historical Society, St. Albans.
•  Dec. 2, 7 – 9 p.m., Swanton Municipal Building, Swanton.
•  Dec. 3, 9:30 – 11 a.m., Pavilion Building, Montpelier.
•  Dec. 10, 2 – 4 p.m., ECHO Lake Aquarium, Burlington.
•  Dec. 10, 7 – 9 p.m., Middlebury Inn, Middlebury.
•  Dec. 11, 10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., Rutland Free Library, Rutland.
The EPA and the VDEC have prepared materials for discussion at the public meetings, which are available at these websites:
VDEC Restoring Lake Champlain Page: www.watershedmanagement.vt.gov/erp/champlain.
EPA information on Vermont Lake Champlain Phosphorus TMDL: www.epa.gov/region1/eco/tmdl/lakechamplain.html.

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