New book warns of Lake Champlain pollution

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(Host) Environmentalists say a new book that warns tourists to stay away from Lake Champlain serves as a wake-up call that the lake is heavily damaged by pollution.

The book says Lake Champlain should be avoided because of persistent water quality problems.

But the Douglas Administration says much of the lake is safe. And officials criticized the environmentalists for calling attention to the book.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) In the summer, blooms of toxic algae have forced the state to warn people to stay out of parts of northern Lake Champlain.

Peter Greenberg is the travel editor of the Today Show. His latest book is called "Don’t go There." He points out that algae blooms in Lake Champlain are fed by phosphorus pollution that runs off the land. Greenberg writes that the lake – quote – "often looks cloudy and smells foul." And he warns tourists to stay away.

The book was published in November and has already sold a million copies. Chris Kilian of the Conservation Law Foundation says Greenberg’s book highlights an environmental and economic issue.

(Kilian) "This should be a clarion call, an unacceptable state of affairs for a state whose primary economic driver is tourism.”

(Host) Douglas Administration officials say the water quality of the lake is generally good. And Commerce Secretary Kevin Dorn criticized the environmentalists for calling attention to the book at a time when the state is trying to boost tourism.

(Dorn) "We think the book is wrong. We think the people who draw attention to the book are doing a disservice to the state."

(Host) Governor Jim Douglas weighed in later during an afternoon news conference.

(Douglas) "Why do we need to highlight it? People write all kinds of things. We don’t need to highlight the negative. We ought to celebrate the progress we’ve made.”

(Dillon) But travel writer Peter Greenberg says his job is not to promote tourism, but to advise readers on the best – and worst – places to travel.

(Greenberg) "If the governor’s response is that he’s upset because I wrote something that is not good publicity, why don’t we deal with the substance of what I wrote, and not the impact? If the lake needs cleaning up, clean up the lake and don’t worry about the spin, worry about the sediment.”

(Dillon) Douglas said the state is making progress on Lake Champlain. And he called on the environmental groups not to criticize the state when tourism needs a boost.

But Kilian of the Conservation Law Foundation says he supports the tourism industry.

(Kilian) "But we can’t do that with a polluted Lake Champlain. We can’t do that with weaker environmental laws.”

(Dillon) Kilian said he was unaware of Greenberg’s book until someone called a colleague and pointed out the chapter that mentioned Lake Champlain.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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