The Idaho Conservation League has filed a lawsuit against the Idaho Transportation Department over the agency’s decade-long failure to close down numerous illegal and outdated motor-waste disposal wells that are a threat to groundwater. ICL is represented in this lawsuit by Bryan Hurlbutt of Advocates for the West.
What’s The Problem?
Motor-waste disposal wells collect harmful waste generated during vehicle repair and maintenance, such as oil, grease, chemical solvents and mechanical fluids. These substances are disposed of directly into the ground rather than into a storage tank or treatment facility.
Because these disposal wells can contaminate groundwater and compromise human health, federal and state regulations outlawed them in 1999 through the Safe Drinking Water Act. The Idaho Department of Water Resources, the agency charged with regulating motor-waste disposal wells, gave owners in Idaho until 2005 to properly close their wells.
Yet according to the most recent public inventory, ITD has failed to close approximately 75 of its waste disposal wells scattered throughout the state. While ITD is not the only owner in Idaho with unclosed motor-waste disposal wells, the department appears to have more wells than anyone else.
Why Are We Taking Action?
Idaho families, farms, and businesses depend on clean water, and groundwater supplies 95% of Idahoans with their drinking water. These wells may be polluting that drinking water, and regulations must be followed to protect us and future generations.
ICL and Advocates for the West have filed the lawsuit under the citizen suit provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Closing the motor-waste disposal wells will require ITD to evaluate whether groundwater has been contaminated across Idaho, a step that was legally required more than a decade ago.
There is no reason Idahoans should put up with outdated waste disposal methods when better, more modern methods are available. Our goal in filing this lawsuit is to protect Idaho’s drinking water by ensuring that these obsolete wells are properly close as quickly as possible. It is far easier and cheaper to keep our water clean than to try to clean it up after it is polluted.