U.S. Water News Online
MONTPELIER, Vt. -- Lawmakers searching for ways to cut
phosphorus pollution in Lake Champlain say stricter controls on
sewage treatment plants might be one solution.
But opponents are preparing to tell them it's a bad idea.
The Agency of Natural Resources opposes the focus on reducing
phosphorus pollution from sewage plants.
Milton Town Manager Sandy Miller said tougher sewage treatment
controls, are "anti-growth and an attempt to stop growth, period."
St. Albans watershed watchdog Peter Rath said the focus should be
"Right now our biggest problem isn't the sewage treatment plant.
What we need to do is drastically reduce pollution coming off the
land," he said.
The Natural Resources Agency will start a series of public
meetings to gather views on the best ways to reduce pollution in Lake
Champlain. The agency has been ordered to report to the Legislature
in January on the effectiveness of Gov. Jim Douglas' $100 million
Lake Champlain anti-pollution campaign.
Lawmakers are concerned that Vermont has spent more than $50
million on the cleanup but has not significantly reduced phosphorus
running into the lake.
"We have put $65 million into the lake and we have not achieved
what we should have with that level of work," said state Sen.
Virginia Lyons, D-Chittenden, the chairwoman of the Senate Natural
Resources and Energy Committee chairwoman.
The Douglas administration stands by its achievements and says the
proposed changes would slow progress on its anti-pollution work.
"We believe we are on the right path and doing the right things,"
said Julie Moore, head of the administration's efforts.
The concern is over popular sections of the lake such as St.
Albans and Missisquoi bays and small passage where water weeds and
algae blooms have turned the water green and at times unsafe for
swimming and other recreation.
Phosphorus is to blame. It's found in fertilizer and manure and
flows into the lake in sewage plant effluent, farm runoff and
stormwater from streets, driveways and yards.
The state has been fighting phosphorus since the 1970s and Gov.
Jim Douglas launched a new cleanup initiative in 2003, called the
"Clean and Clear Action Plan."
The state and federal governments have spent millions of dollars
to upgrade sewage plants, manure storage pits, riverbank buffers, and
stormwater catch basins but there have not been significant
reductions in phosphorus pollution in the lake.
Concerned lawmakers ordered an independent review of the Clean and
Clear program. They also asked the Natural Resources Agency to
increase the pollution-reduction goals, to further restrict sewage
pollution and to make other changes.
After the Douglas administration rejected those proposals,
lawmakers asked the Natural Resources Agency to report back in
January with more information.
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