EPA Releases Final Phosphorus Limits for Vermont Segments of Lake Champlain

BURLINGTON –The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is establishing the final Phosphorus Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for the twelve Vermont segments of Lake Champlain.

Too much phosphorus pollution is reaching Lake Champlain primarily from the streams and rivers draining into it. The primary concern is polluted runoff – rainwater or snowmelt that drains off of parking lots, roads and streets, logging roads, farm fields and croplands, and lawns. The runoff carries pollutants – sediment, nutrients such as phosphorus that are naturally present in soils, pet and animal wastes, fertilizers, and other pollutants – and deposits these pollutants into streams and rivers or directly into Lake Champlain. Long-term trends since 1990 indicate that phosphorus concentrations in several segments continue to increase.

EPA’s document sets targets for meeting water quality standards in each of 12 lake segments in Vermont and then subdivides the targets among the major sectors that contribute phosphorus to the Lake. Those sectors include Wastewater Treatment Facilities, runoff from developed lands and roadways, agricultural and forest lands, and erosion in unstable stream corridors. The final Phosphorus TMDLs contain refinements based on public comments received on the proposed TMDLs released in August 2015. These refinements include small adjustments among the sub-allocations within some segments, but do not significantly change the overall reduction requirements.

“Today’s announcement marks another very important step forward in restoring the priceless beauty that is Lake Champlain,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “While EPA is setting the targets, the strategies for meeting those targets has and will continue to be led by Vermont. Act 64 and the state’s Implementation Plan provide a progressive roadmap for achieving these targets. EPA commends Vermont for some cutting edge choices on how to tackle all significant sources of phosphorus and for all the implementation planning already in motion at the state and municipal level. Our action today does not mark the end of EPA’s involvement, but rather the beginning of the next phase. EPA will continue to provide support to the Vermont agencies and will assess and report to the public on progress in meeting the commitments in Vermont’s Implementation Plan and reducing phosphorus loads to the Lake,” Spalding said.

The TMDLs are the product of a multi-year collaborative effortinvolving EPA, the VT Agency of Natural Resources, the VT Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets and the VT Agency of Transportation. The effort also benefited from feedback from other agencies like NRCS, and organizations like the Friends of Northern Lake Champlain, the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, the Conservation Law Foundation and many other Vermonters along the way.

“This is a pivotal time for the future of Lake Champlain and Vermont,” said Deb Markowitz, Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.  “EPA’s TMDL provides the targets to achieve a clean lake. We look forward to working across all sectors to ensure its effective implementation. Our success will lead to a more vibrant Lake, and will support the state’s tourism industry and economy overall.”

A Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) is an important management tool that can help resource agencies determine where to focus their management efforts. A TMDL is a calculation of the loading capacity – or the maximum amount of a pollutant that a body of water can be expected to handle, while safely meeting established water quality standards.

More information:

- Lake Champlain TMDLs: https://www.epa.gov/tmdl/lake-champlain-phosphorous-tmdl-commitment-clean-water

- How EPA identifies polluted waters and develops plans to restore them: https://www.epa.gov/tmdl