Bitterrooters for Planning, the Montana Environmental Information Center and the Bitterroot River Protection Association filed suit in District Court on Tuesday, June 24, against the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) challenging the issuance of a groundwater discharge permit for the Grantsdale Addition subdivision located southeast of Hamilton. Attorneys for the three non-profit organizations, Jack Tuholske and Erin Farris-Olsen, claim the permit was issued in violation of the Montana Water Quality Act because it failed to perform a non-degradation analysis on the potential effects and cumulative effects of the subdivision’s waste disposal discharge on nearby surface waters including the Bitterroot River.
The 181-lot subdivision, one of the largest ever approved in Ravalli County, was granted a wastewater discharge permit by DEQ in 2006, but that permit was revoked when the developer failed to install the required water quality monitoring well downgradient from the subdivision’s discharge mixing zone. The agency subsequently issued a permit renewal on March 28, 2014 after removing that requirement from the permit and only requiring monitoring upgradient from the subdivision.
DEQ claims that no evidence was submitted showing any hydraulic connection between the groundwater into which the wastewater system discharges and the nearby surface waters. The plaintiffs allege that the agency is in error in only considering the potential effects of the discharge on groundwater at the point of discharge and in not analyzing the potential effects of nitrate laden groundwater when it reaches the Bitterroot River.
The three non-profit organizations are asking the Court to void the issuance of the permit and remand it back to DEQ for reconsideration. They are also asking the Court for a determination and declaration that issuance of the groundwater discharge permit is illegal and violates that Montana Water Quality Act for its failure to take a hard look at impacts to surface waters and cumulative impacts.
For more information contact Kelsey Milner of Bitterrooters for Planning at 363-7555.