The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of Vermont are holding a series of six public meetings in December of 2013, to discuss the process for restoring the Lake Champlain Basin (a “Basin” or “watershed” is a water body – such as Lake Champlain – and all the land that drains into that waterbody either directly or via the tributaries that flow into it). See the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (VT DEC) Lake Champlain website for the schedule and locations for these public meetings.
The process for restoring Lake Champlain Basin first involves establishing a cap or a “Total Maximum Daily Load” (TMDL) on the pollutant causing water quality degradation, as required under the federal Clean Water Act. Actions are then necessary to reduce the delivery of the problem pollutant into streams, rivers, and ultimately, Lake Champlain.
The pollutant of particular concern is phosphorus, found in unmanaged stormwater runoff coming off of parking lots, gravel roads, logging roads, and paved streets, agricultural lands, lawns, and wherever you have uncontrolled erosion from rainfall or snowmelt. Phosphorus is also found in discharges from wastewater treatment plants, fertilizers, and manure used on farm fields.
Too much phosphorus causes excessive growth of algae in the form of “blooms” in some areas of the lake that turn water murky shades of green, brown, or blue. Some of these algae blooms can be toxic to pets and people. Excessive phosphorus loading also increases the costs of drinking water and wastewater treatment, affects businesses that depend on clean water such as tourism and recreation, and depresses property values. Excessive phosphorus loading can also degrade the water quality of local streams and rivers that feed into Lake Champlain.
The set of proposed actions to reduce phosphorus loadings and restore Lake Champlain can also be found in the draft document, “The State of Vermont’s Proposal for a Clean Lake Champlain”. These actions will be discussed at the public meetings. Members of the public can also email or send in written comments by January 17, 2014 to Kari Dolan at the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation: firstname.lastname@example.org.