In a letter sent recently to VT Digger, representatives of eight municipalites agreed that the Conservation Law Foundation’s wastewater permit appeals currently in process are neither based on fact nor the best strategy for dealing with phosphorous pollution in Lake Champlain. The letter’s signers include town/city managers, planning and public works directors, water quality superintendents, and stormwater coordinators.
The authors take issue with CLF’s claim that the permits would allow for increases of actual discharges. In fact, they say, the nine permits challenged “collectively lower the allowed phosphorous releases to the lake by 13,271 pounds per year, or 68 percent below current permit limits.” Ironically, the nine targeted plants are those that have been most effective at reducung phosphorous releases.
While supporting ambitious efforts to clean up the lake, the authors point out that wastewater treatment plants contribute only 3 percent of the phosphorous flow from Vermont sources; further reductions would functionally penalize wastewater plants that are outperforming their permits! Meanwhile, phosphorous from agriculture and urban/rural stormwater (much from roads and built environments) constitute 66 percent of Vermont’s infows.
Admittedly, these sources are vastly more difficult to limit. The letter’s authors suggest that a collaborative approach — one that acknowledges real priorities, and takes on the hard technological and regulatory challenges these flows constitute — would benefit Lake Champlain more than the permit appeals.
To read the VT Digger letter in full, go to: https://vtdigger.org/2018/08/15/local-officials-clf-suit-unfairly-targets-wastewater-treatment/