On Thursday July 18, 2013, after reaching an agreement with the state, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a corrective action plan requiring the state to update and improve its clean water program. After considering a petition filed by the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) in 2008, EPA found that the State of Vermont’s clean water program needed to be improved in several ways including program requirements relating to public transparency, documentation of permitting decisions, enforcement penalty policy, regulation of animal feedlots, and nutrient pollution from municipal sewage treatment plants.
Following efforts by Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources to address these concerns, EPA has now found that the State of Vermont’s program, once the plan has been implemented, will substantially comply with the requirements of federal water quality law. EPA did determine that a change is needed to a state law associated with funding of phosphorus removal from wastewater treatment plant effluent but also found that the state can issue permits consistent with the federal Clean Water Act in the interim until that law is revised.
“We are pleased with this outcome,” stated Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) Secretary Deb Markowitz. “The EPA’s plan reflects the fact that the State of Vermont has made significant efforts to ensure that our implementation of the Clean Water Act meets the letter and purpose of the law. Our state and federal governments share the goal of ensuring that Vermont’s waters are protected and restored. Vermont’s lakes, ponds, rivers and streams are fundamental to our quality of life and future prosperity.”
Most of the requirements of the plan have already been implemented by the Agency of Natural Resources including the following:
• Providing an opportunity for the public to review and comment on enforcement actions related to violations of water quality law;
• Conforming the state’s policy relating to the use of penalty payments to EPA’s requirements;
• Updating the state’s system for reporting violations of federal water quality law;
• Ensuring that animal feedlot operations are permitted in a manner that accords with the federal Clean Water Act and that water pollution from those feedlots is stopped and prevented;
• Implementing a requirement of the Clean Water Act to prevent the degradation of existing high quality waters;
• Documenting the analyses used by the Agency to develop permit limits for the discharge of pollutants into Vermont’s waters; and
• Limiting the amount of nutrients discharged by municipal wastewater treatment plants in a manner that conforms to the federal Clean Water Act.
“We appreciate the hard work and good faith demonstrated by EPA and CLF in the resolution of this matter without the need to go to court,” commented Justin Johnson, ANR Deputy Secretary. “As a result of the work of these parties, we were able to achieve a balanced result that will allow the state to continue to implement the Clean Water Act in a manner that protects state waters and is transparent to the public without increasing the burden of the regulatory process on our farms, businesses, towns and cities.”
Contact: Leila LaRosa, 802-238-7986, firstname.lastname@example.org