Comments on New Ennis Wastewater Treatment Facility Pollution Permit

Ever visit Ennis Lake during a Montana summer? Have you seen algae, greenish waters and felt super warm temperatures? These conditions are often related to excessive nutrient and sediment loading to a waterbody. Many waterways in Southwest and West-Central Montana receive too much nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment for water to remain healthy. The primary sources for these pollutants are agricultural runoff and discharges, wastewater treatment plant discharges, urban and suburban runoff and septic system discharges.

Science tells us where pollution comes from, and it also helps us understand how we can reduce it. For example one way is limiting the amount of pollution that facilities with pollution permits – like wastewater treatment plants – can discharge. Water treatment technology can achieve an amazing amount of pollution reduction; however, our government is not always keen to make sure treatment plants actually use this best available technology or enforce sufficiently protective water quality standards.

This is where Upper Missouri Waterkeeper plays a key role: we analyze new permits for polluting facilities – like wastewater treatment plants – to ensure their permits both contain strong technological standards for treatment and that those standards are enforced. Without this citizen-watchdog role making sure our government does its job to protect our waterways and communities we are left, more often than not, without clear direction on how to keep, or improve, water quality and the health of our fisheries and drinking water.

Click this link < Comment.EnnisWWTP (Feb 20, 2014) > to read a recent technical comment letter we submitted to the Montana Dept. of Environmental Quality concerning a new permit for the Ennis Wastewater Treatment Facility. Here DEQ is proposing to lessen clean water protections for how much total suspended solids and, even worse, hasn’t looked at the cumulative impacts such a lesser limit could create, impacts like contributing more sediment to Ennis Lake.

Why do we care about thorough environmental reviews and strong standards in permits? Because without strong permits business and cities in Montana don’t do their fair share to protect key fisheries, like the Madison River’s trout, and Southwest Montana’s guaranteed right to have clean water for recreation in Ennis Lake. It’s a whole lot easier to protect and preserve what’s working than to let something break and try to fix it later; we take the same common sense approach to protecting and improving water quality for Southwest and West-Central Montana.