Phosphorus Pollution

Photo from morguefile.com

Excessive amounts of phosphorus in a lake can shift the biological community to domination by weeds and algae. Sediments can be a source of phosphorus and they also smother wildlife habitat. The Lake Champlain Committee advocates for better control of nutrient pollution in Lake Champlain through improved agricultural policies and programs; better management of stormwater by municipalities, residents, and states; clear and consistent enforcement of water rules and regulations; and active engaged citizens that do their part to reduce personal impacts on water quality.

Despite extensive recent efforts to reduce pollution, the amount of phosphorus in the lake has not changed in most places and appears to be increasing in some lake segments. Wetter-than-normal weather and an increase in the population of the Lake Champlain Basin are thought to be the two most significant causes of increased phosphorus loading.

LCC's Past and Ongoing Projects

  • Helped launch one of the longest running citizen monitoring programs in the country. The data gathered by volunteers leverages state resources and has been instrumental in guiding policy decisions.
  • Advocated for a joint New York, Vermont, and Quebec approach to reduce nutrient loading. 
  • Pushed for boat holding tank laws to make dumping boat waste illegal on the lake. 
  • Lobbied for sewage treatment upgrades and phosphorus removal at wastewater treatment plants.
  • Pushed for a more stringent standard of phosphorus removal for Lake Champlain wastewater treatment plants.
  • Secured passage of the first ban on phosphorus in the laundry detergents, resulting in the most significant reduction in pollution loading the lake has seen. 
  • Advanced legislation to close a loophole that had allowed continued phosphorus use in automatic dishwasher detergents. The legislation went into effect in 2010. 
  • Supported Best Management Practices for farms and the adoption of nutrient management plans to reduce phosphorus loading from agriculture.
  • Helped establish numeric water quality standards for phosphorus levels in the lake. LCC co-wrote the standards and worked to ensure their adoption.  Without numeric standards it is unlikely that the clean-up efforts of the last decade would have happened.
  • Earned endorsement from the states of New York and Vermont and the province of Quebec of numeric water quality standards as part of an international water quality agreement. 
  • Successfully advocated for New York, Vermont and Quebec commitments to accelerate nutrient reduction actions.
  • Brought increased attention, funding and restoration work to Missisquoi Bay, St. Albans Bay, the areas of the lake that suffer most dramatically from excess phosphorus loading. 
  • Current member Lake Champlain Basin Phosphorus Reduction Task Force, which we helped initiate.
  • Current member of the Vermont Citizens’ Advisory Committee on the Future of Lake Champlain.
  • Developed the Lake Champlain Protection Pledge – an opportunity for all citizens to reduce their impacts on the lake.
  • Helped initiate the Don’t P on Your Lawn campaign – an educational outreach effort to reduce unnecessary application of phosphorus lawn fertilizer.
  • Helped pass restrictions on phosphorus in lawn fertilizer that went into effect in 2012.
  • Collaborated on materials that were published to educate on lawn fertilizer restrictions. Read Don't P on Your Lawn Flier 1 and Don't P on your Lawn Flier 2 to learn more.