EPA To Reconsider Lake Champlain Clean-Up Plan

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(Host) The Environmental Protection Agency is reconsidering its approval of a state clean up plan for Lake Champlain.

The plan was approved by the federal government in 2002, but pollution levels have continued to rise in the big lake.

The Douglas Administration reacted strongly to the EPA decision. Environmental Conservation Commissioner Justin Johnson said at one point the EPA had declared the Vermont plan a model for other states.

(Johnson) "This seems to be a real slap in the face to all the work Vermont has done, both the administration, the legislature, taxpayers, the congressional delegation."

(Host) EPA’s decision to re-examine the clean up plan was outlined in a document filed in federal court. The Conservation Law Foundation had sued the state and the federal government, saying the clean up plan was inadequate.

Chris Kilian is Vermont director of the Conservation Law Foundation. He says that the lake is not getting clean – and that the EPA action should result in more stringent protection measures.

(Kilian) "It’s reasonable as you deal with a problem like cleaning up a big water body like Lake Champlain to go back to your original assumption and make changes when you know they’re wrong. And that’s I think the direction EPA is heading here."

(Host) The main pollution problem in the lake is phosphorus – a plant nutrient that feeds algae blooms. Kilian says that Governor Douglas promised the clean up plan would be implemented by 2009.

(Kilian) "Instead, what we’ve seen are eight years of delay from the Douglas Administration, a refusal to enhance programs that are needed to clean up the lake, and increasing information documenting that not only is the lake remaining polluted but in some instances getting worse."

(Host) Environmental Commissioner Johnson said Vermont has invested more than $100 million on clean up efforts. And he said when EPA approved the plan, the agency recognized that it may take decades for all the programs to succeed.

(Johnson) "And now, we get the sense that EPA is looking to back away from their decision to approve it. And we think that is very unfortunate."

(Host) Johnson questioned why the EPA found fault with the Vermont clean up program  – but not with the New York portion of the plan.

He said the problems in the lake transcend state borders.

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