Shumlin Offers Revised Clean-up Plan

Will Vermont's clean-up plan lead to clearer waters? Photos by Lori Fisher and Daniel Rugar.

Governor Peter Shumlin sent a revised Phase I plan for the clean-up of Lake Champlain to EPA the end of May. The plan is an effort to meet requirements anticipated from a revised lake pollution budget required by EPA.

The draft plan calls for additional permitting and inspections across a variety of sectors. The state would increase farm inspections and revise accepted agricultural practices to be more protective of water quality; increase investment in floodplain restoration and land conservation along streams; require new permits for municipal and state roads; and develop a new permit for areas with a high density of existing impervious cover (eg. roads, parking lots, rooftops).

The May 29 document is the third draft of the Phase I plan. With each subsequent draft EPA has requested more detail and a greater commitment to funding the plan. Vermont has consistently responded with more detail on the steps to be taken, but limited additional information on funding. The latest version promise funding details by November 15, after the next election.

One looming point of contention between Vermont and EPA is over the need to reduce pollution from wastewater plants. EPA had suggested that more reductions would be necessary. EPA has limited ability to regulate pollution run off from diffuse sources like roads, parking lots, and farm fields. They have much greater authority over large point sources like wastewater plants.

In Shumlin’s letter of commitment accompanying the plan, he asks EPA not to target wastewater. Stating “If we rebuild every wastewater plant along the lake at an enormous cost, it would only reduce phosphorus by 3 percent. That is a bad plan.” Shumlin sets forth four principles that give wastewater facilities flexibility to meet any new standards, and says, “If the manner of EPA’s final load allocation for wastewater treatment plants does not reflect the above principles, then I will direct my agency secretaries to withdraw the commitments we are making elsewhere in the Plan.”

EPA has yet to inform the state of the specific target pollution reduction goals for each watershed. That information is expected to be released by the end of the year.