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VNRC Statement on EPA Issuance of Lake Champlain TMDL

June 20, 2016

Contact: Jon Groveman, VNRC Water Program and Policy Director, 802-223-2328 x111

EPA has issued a final revised Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) cleanup plan for Lake Champlain. While VNRC is still in the process of reviewing the final document, it is clear that EPA’s approval of the revised TMDL is a milestone and an important step forward for the future of Lake Champlain. According to VNRC Water Program and Policy Director Jon Groveman, “The 2002 TMDL was severely flawed. The revised TMDL just approved by EPA is a significant improvement over the 2002 plan.”

In particular, VNRC supports the inclusion of a detailed implementation plan, initial funding for key parts of the TMDL, and commitments to improve agricultural and stormwater regulations and to address erosion from streams and riverbanks. “Ultimately, the success of the TMDL will be determined by the strength of the regulations to address phosphorous pollution — many of which are still being written — and a long-term commitment to funding both the programs and enforcement needed to ensure dramatic reductions in phosphorus pollution,” Groveman said.

The state has recently proposed changes to the rules governing farm pollution in the form of Required Agricultural Practices. Agricultural runoff is the most significant source of phosphorous pollution in the Lake. So far VNRC has been disappointed with the strength of the regulations, in particular, the failure of the regulations to require adequate buffers between farming and surface waters and the lack of a requirement to keep livestock out of Vermont’s rivers and streams. “The TMDL will not be successful if the state does not address shortcomings in the proposed Required Agricultural Practices,” Groveman said.

Similarly, the state has released a draft of potential upgrades to Vermont’s stormwater regulations. VNRC has raised concerns that the phosphorous removal limits in the early draft are not stringent enough, and that the regulations do not require sufficient improvements when existing sites generating stormwater pollution are re-developed. “Stronger stormwater regulations will be necessary to achieve the pollution reductions called for in the TMDL,” Groveman said. Groveman added, “The stakes couldn’t be higher for the Lake. This is our best chance to build on the hard work DEC and EPA have put into a much more viable framework for cleaning up Lake Champlain in the form of this revised TMDL than we have ever seen in the past. We can’t afford to miss this opportunity.”