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By Mark Moran - Producer-Editor, Contact - News


Big Sky Connection - Environmental advocates have sued the State of Montana to stop the operation of a large wastewater treatment facility at the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park. The state's Department of Environmental Quality says it violated no rules in approving the facility. Comments from Guy Alsentzer, executive director, Upper Missouri Waterkeeper.

Click on the image above for the audio. More than 600 lakes and ponds comprise about 107,000 surface acres in Yellowstone, according to the National Park Service. (Adobe Stock)

Mark Moran

October 20, 2023 - The Bozeman-based group Upper Missouri Waterkeeper and its members have filed a complaint in District Court to stop the operation of a new wastewater treatment plant in Montana, just a few miles from Yellowstone National Park.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality approved the Deep Well Ranch Regional Wastewater System earlier this year. Through a large sewer line it approved last year, the facility will handle the plumbing waste from two large sites for KOA, the world's largest private campground franchise, near the park.

Guy Alsentzer, executive director of Upper Missouri Waterkeeper, said the department approved the facility without taking any public comment.

"The public has a right to participate in all state agency decisions," Alsentzer asserted. "And more to the point, where they're going to dispose of the waste -- about 75,000 gallons per day during the summer -- is going to be spray irrigated into the air directly next to the Diamond P Ranch. And that's a problem. "

The department has said it takes public comment on projects when required by law, announces them when necessary, and pointed to a robust list of public input opportunities on its website.

The wastewater treatment lagoons will be capable of storing nearly 4 million gallons of sewage, enough to fill nearly six Olympic-sized swimming pools with wastewater. Alsentzer warned the facility will threaten fragile species, ecosystems and groundwater that have made Yellowstone environmentally iconic.

"We know that all these resources are fragile," Alsentzer contended. "We know they're connected, and we also know that there's an enormous value in our wildlife. People think about Yellowstone National Park and they immediately think about our world-class heritage and the outdoors. And yet, this is allowing the buildout of a new -- by its own definition -- the Deepwater Ranch Regional Wastewater System."

Situated nearly five miles from Yellowstone National Park, the area is a known wildlife corridor for big game species including grizzly and black bears, elk and wolverine. It is also a popular birthing grounds for pronghorn.

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