Vermont Conservation Voters

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Clean Water

Clean water is essential to Vermonters’ health, economy, and way of life. Healthy waters underpin our tourism and recreation economies, are essential to thriving businesses and our favorite paddling, swimming, and fishing holes, provide necessary habitat for birds and wildlife, and provide us with safe drinking water. Sadly, water pollution in Vermont is resulting
in pervasive cyanobacteria blooms and contaminated drinking water supplies. Polluted water is putting Vermonters’ health at risk, decreasing property values, and threatening Vermont’s vital tourist economy.

Water quality in Lake Champlain, for example, has been a serious problem for decades. In 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – as a result of lawsuits to protect the Lake brought by the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) – required Vermont to ramp up its efforts to cut pollution and clean up Lake Champlain. The EPA ordered Vermont to develop a revised total maximum daily load (TMDL) cleanup plan. The passage of Vermont’s Clean Water Act (Act 64) in 2015 was a major part of Vermont’s commitment to the EPA under the revised TMDL. Act 64 included new regulations, better enforcement tools, and interim funding for water quality. Act 64 applies to waters statewide because, unfortunately, Lake Champlain is just one of many impaired waters across the state. For example, last year the EPA approved a new TMDL requiring cleanup of Lake Memphremagog.

To successfully implement Vermont’s Clean Water Act (Act 64), EPA-mandated cleanup plans, and other laws essential to meeting Vermont’s Water Quality Standards, the state must effectively implement and enforce our existing pollution regulations. Importantly, the state must also establish a stable long-term funding source to implement on-the-ground projects essential to reducing pollution from farms, roads, and developed lands.

With farms being the single biggest contributor to water pollution, we must ensure that our regulations are strong enough, and that they are being adequately enforced. We support moving enforcement of agricultural clean water oversight to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC); developing better standards for tile drains; and funding innovative practices on farms, such as supporting farmers seeking to transition to organic and regenerative practices.

To meet our obligations to safeguard public health and the Vermont brand, we are calling on lawmakers to authorize a long-term, dedicated funding source that adequately invests in our water cleanup efforts. We also support developing an improved mechanism for getting those dollars to high priority projects on the ground that will reduce pollution and protect our waters.

2019 Legislative Priorities: