For the third year in a row, ICL reviewed data from all of the more than 100 wastewater treatment plants in Idaho to assess compliance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) permits for harmful bacteria, chemicals, toxic metals and other substances. We analyzed that data and created our Third Annual Idaho Wastewater Treatment Plant Performance Evaluation report. Unfortunately, we found that 76% of facilities across the state failed to meet the requirements in their permit needed to protect water quality.

  • 10 of 114 facilities were responsible for nearly half of all violations reported statewide.
  • The top 10 were evenly split between communities above and below the Salmon River.
  • The top 3 worst were located throughout southern Idaho.
  • On a positive note, 27 cities or towns reported zero discharge violations during the most recent three-year review period.

The good news is that our annual reports are causing movement in the right direction. Each year we contact some of the worst performing facilities to learn why they are struggling and work with them to correct any issues as quickly as possible. Correcting every issue will take time, but currently all of the 10-worst performing facilities are taking steps toward remedying issues and protecting water quality.

Why We Do This Report

Sewage plants are required to meet EPA’s water quality standards before discharging into Idaho waters. Permits that require limits on the amount of pollution being discharged into a lake or river are critical to protect our families, our pets, and Idaho’s wildlife. Our study shows that nearly 8 out of every 10 facilities fail to meet these standards, putting the quality of our water and our health in jeopardy.

ICL’s Wastewater Treatment Plant report started in 2017. It compiles and examines discharge permit violations for every Idaho facility and rates them on their record of meeting legal standards for clean water. Facilities with no violations received a passing grade. Facilities with violations received a failing grade.

Our review looks at the 114 wastewater treatment plants located across Idaho that discharge to a water body. Needless to say, that’s a lot of facilities to track. The EPA and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (IDEQ) are ultimately responsible for ensuring facilities are following their permits. Given the large number of facilities though, violations can often get overlooked and allowed to continue. Our report highlights which facilities are struggling and makes sure that facility managers, local communities, and agencies like the EPA and IDEQ are working towards solutions.

Just One Aspect of Our Broader Water Work

Reviewing data from wastewater treatment plants across the state is an important and effective way to protect water quality in Idaho, but our water work is much broader than just this report. To ensure rules that protect our drinking water are based on the best science available, ICL actively participates in policy development. We also weigh in on activities that could impact drinking water by providing input on regulatory decisions. Lastly, if something is polluting Idaho’s drinking water, we work with those involved to make sure the pollution stops.

Water is Idaho’s lifeblood — we drink it and recreate in it, we irrigate our crops with it, and Idaho’s fish and wildlife rely on it. It’s important that we all do everything we can to protect it.