Governor Douglas, Premier Charest Discuss Lake Champlain Cleanup

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(Host) Leaders from Quebec and Vermont say they’re working closely together on cross-border issues. Governor Jim Douglas and Quebec Premier Jean Charest met on Tuesday in Burlington. The officials said they’re committed to accelerating the clean-up of Lake Champlain, and to building greater economic ties between the two regions.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Last year, Douglas and Charest pledged to speed up the cleanup of Lake Champlain and on Tuesday they re-affirmed that commitment.

The most immediate problem is phosphorus pollution, which has led to toxic algae blooms on Missisquoi Bay. The bay straddles the international border and Premier Charest says the provincial government has focused cleanup efforts on dairy farms in Quebec.

(Charest) “We are proceeding on a farm by farm evaluation of any pollutants that may potentially go into the lake. There’s about 600 farms that are targeted and I think we have about 450 of them now done. So we are working diligently together on this issue add are moving very rapidly.”

(Dillon) Governor Douglas says his administration has secured about $8 million for lake cleanup. Last year, he moved up the deadline for the state to meet phosphorus reduction targets from 2016 to 2009. Despite these efforts, he says it will take some time before the water starts to get cleaner.

(Douglas) “This is a long-term proposition. We didn’t get into this situation over night and it’s going to take us a while to get out of. But we’ve adopted plans on both sides of the border and with our friends in New York to accomplish that. We are very serious about making more progress.”

(Dillon) But Chris Kilian of the Conservation Law Foundation says the Douglas administration could do much more to cut the amount of phosphorus that flows from farms, suburban malls and town sewage treatment plants.

(Kilian) “I think we need to stop focusing on the dollar amount of public funding and we need to start focusing on what is really happening on the ground. And we need to be holding the dischargers – the polluters that are actually causing the problems – accountable for what they contribute to this problem. And that’s where the resolve is lacking.”

(Dillon) Besides Lake Champlain, the leaders from Quebec and Vermont discussed security and economic issues. Premier Charest said he also shared his concerns about a landfill in Coventry that some Quebec residents fear could pollute Lake Memphremagog.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Burlington.

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