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Conservation group releases report on sewage systems

Staff Writer | September 10, 2022 1:00 AM

BOISE — The Idaho Conservation League has released its fifth annual report on the state’s sewage treatment plants.

In its review published Wednesday, ICL said only 28 of the state’s 112 municipal water systems had no discharge permit violations.

By ICL’s standards, 75% of Idaho’s sewage plants received a failing grade, including all but one plant in the panhandle.

ICL used data from echo.epa.gov for the study. The caveat, however, is that a simple pass/fail categorization of these plants does not capture the degree to which they failed or almost passed — or whether the water ever reached the public. ICL used a simple pass/fail grade for the report. If the plant had a single violation from the beginning of 2019 to the end of 2021 then the plant received a failing grade.

“The Clean Water Act contains no provision for a minor violation or forgiveness for barely or infrequently violating a permit limit. Exceeding a limit by 50%, 10% or just 1% is treated the same — it is a violation of the permit condition and thus a violation of the Clean Water Act,” the report states.

The Dover plant failed to meet standards on one occasion for suspended solids, which include sediment and other fine-grained particles that can reduce water clarity and harm aquatic life. It was the city’s only violation in the past three years.

The Priest River plant has had four E. coli violations in the last three years.

In Sandpoint, the plant has had three violations in the past three years. The plant failed for the allowable levels of biochemical oxygen demand, which is a surrogate of the degree of organic pollution in effluent, as well as for chlorine and pH levels.

The Kootenai-Ponderay plant had five violations over the last three years for nitrogen and suspended solids.

The Bonners Ferry plant had four violations in the last three years on counts of chlorine, E coli., and pH levels.

Coeur d’Alene had five violations for E. coli or pH levels. Post Falls only had one failure for their zinc levels. Hayden’s plant did not have any violations.

Mullan had two failures, one for E. coli and the other for pH.

St. Maries saw 14 failures for BOD and suspended solids. Worley had 21 violations for ammonia, BOD, and suspended solids.

Smelterville saw 33 violations in the last three years for ammonia, BOD, E. coli, lead, and suspended solids. Plummer had 58 failures for ammonia, E. coli, and phosphorus – ranking in with the fifth most permit violations in the state.

To review the 33 page report go to bit.ly/Report5ICL.