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Vermont’s Polluted Lake Champlain at Center of Don’t Go There Controversy

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Algae BloomPeter’s latest book, Don’t Go There! The Travel Detective’s Essential Guide to the Must-Miss Places of the World has certainly stirred up controversy since its release in November.

But in Vermont, his book has sparked conflicts between environmental groups and the state’s administration over the quality of Lake Champlain.

Check out what Peter wrote about this iconic Vermont lake:

In 1999, three dogs that leapt into Lake Champlain later died after ingesting the blue-green algae scum that covers much of it. How bad is that?

According to the Conservation Law Foundation, Lake Champlain in Vermont has been polluted with an abundance of phosphorus for the past 30 years, and it’s only getting worse in several parts of the lake. The main culprit responsible for the high phosphorus levels is urban development.

The water often looks cloudy and green and smells foul, due to algae blooms, and the depletion of the lake’s oxygen has affected fish. During dry, hot weather, the blue-green algae actually can become toxic. Beaches along the lake are frequently closed in order to safeguard human and animal health, but Essex Beach in New York State has been permanently closed.

Three environmental groups, the Conservation Law Foundation, Vermont Natural Resources Council and Vermont League of Conservation Voters are pointing toward Don’t Go There as a wake-up call to the administration over its failure to implement measures to control stormwater pollution which leads to pollutants such as phosphorus run-off. According to reports, algae blooms primarily affect St. Albans and Missisquoi bays.

Republican Governor Jim Douglas and members of the administration responded that much of the lake is safe, and expressed disappointment that Vermont-area groups are highlighting negative issues and “advocating against coming to Vermont.”

In an interview on Vermont Public Radio last Thursday, Peter responded to the controversy, saying, “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.”

Related links: Burlington Free Press, Barre-Montpelier Times-Argus, Fox 44, WCAX, Vermont Public Radio

By Sarika Chawla for PeterGreenberg.com.

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