Douglas says phosphorus cleanup taking longer than anticipated

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says it’s taking longer than he expected to reduce phosphorus levels in Lake Champlain.

But Douglas says he’s convinced that the state has the right strategy to improve the quality of the lake over time.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency sent a letter to the Douglas Administration about the lack of progress that’s been made by the state to reduce phosphorus levels in Lake Champlain.

The EPA said it might need to revisit its decision to allow more phosphorus discharges from waste water treatment plants near the Lake because the state’s overall non point source plan has yet to show any tangible results.

Governor Jim Douglas fired off a letter to the EPA describing their concerns as being "erroneous, misleading, out of touch and scientifically baseless."

On VPR’s Vermont Edition, Douglas acknowledged that an independent audit of the state’s plan shows that there’s been virtually no progress made in reducing phosphorus levels despite the expenditure of almost $85 million.

Douglas insists that the state’s approach is sound but he admits that it’s going to take some time to show definite results.

(Douglas) “We really have put in place a robust strategy of improving the non point source problem that is causing such an increase in the phosphorus and algae build up in the Lake. So it’s going to take some time. People have to be patient. But I’m confident that we have the right strategy in place."

(Kinzel) In 2003, Douglas expressed the hope that phosphorus levels in Lake Champlain would be significantly lower by 2009 – the 400th anniversary of European exploration of the lake. Now he says he hopes that there will be evidence of gradual progress by next year.

(Douglas) “I said that I hoped it would not get worse by the time of our quadricentennial and I’m still confident that we’ll be at that point. Obviously, it’s going to take a long time to get to the clarity that we want, the clarity that Vermonters and visitors here deserve."

(Kinzel) Anthony Iarropino is a staff attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation. He says it’s clear that the Douglas Administration made promises that weren’t realistic.

(Iarropino) “When the original clean up plan for Lake Champlain was formulated back in 2002, the state made a lot of promises about how effective its clean up efforts would be across the board on a range of pollution sources. And I think what’s driving the EPA now is that ANR has over-promised and under-delivered in terms of results."

(Kinzel) Governor Douglas has asked the Bush administration to learn more about the state’s efforts and not to take any steps that might make Vermont’s efforts more difficult.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.


AP Photo/Coutesy of Larry Dupont

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