ICL has just released our second annual report on how well sewage treatment plants in Idaho operate. The news is not good.
Idaho has 114 municipal sewage treatment plants that discharge to local creeks and rivers. Over the last three years, they violated the Clean Water Act 1,742 times. Only 20 of the sewage treatment plants reviewed (17.5% ) operated without violations during that time period. The remaining 94 municipal wastewater facilities (82.5%) violated the Clean Water Act by discharging unlawful amounts of E. coli, phosphorus, heavy metals and solids (i.e., poop), and other pollutants into local waters – placing downstream users, human health and fish at risk.
While no violations are acceptable, some of Idaho’s municipal wastewater treatment plants are failing much worse than others. Most of the facilities that violated their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits reported fewer than 10 violations over the last three years. At the other end of the spectrum, several facilities reported that they had violated their permits more than 100 times. Clearly, there are gradations of failing – and some facilities are failing very badly.
Indeed, a small subset is responsible for a hugely disproportionate number of the violations. Just 10 facilities accounted for 848 violations – that is nearly half (48.7%) of all of the violations that occurred statewide. Amazingly, Inkom, the single worst performing facility in the state, is responsible for 11% of all violations in the state.
Idahoans feel very strongly about their right to clean water for drinking, fishing and swimming. Municipal wastewater treatment plants are really the front line for protecting water quality and human health. Properly built, operated and maintained sewage treatment plants are critical for keeping our rivers and lakes fishable and swimmable. Yet just 17.5% of the sewage treatment plants reviewed for this report are operating without violating laws put in place to protect water quality. Clearly, many sewage treatment plants in Idaho have some significant structural or operational problems that must be addressed.
ICL takes these violations very seriously. One of the purposes of our report is to remind facilities that it is a violation of the Clean Water Act to discharge pollution from wastewater treatment plants at levels that exceed their permitted limits.
If your community’s wastewater treatment plant received a failing grade in this report – especially if your community reported more than 10 violations – your local sewage treatment plant could find itself charged with violating the Clean Water Act.
Download our report and learn how your community did, how you can get involved and what you can do.