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Report: ID Sewage Treatment Plants Need to Clean Up Their Act

A new report finds some water treatment plants may be polluting the waters Idahoans swim and play in. (Joe Nuxoll/Flickr)
A new report finds some water treatment plants may be polluting the waters Idahoans swim and play in. (Joe Nuxoll/Flickr)
July 14, 2017

BOISE, Idaho – The vast majority of Idaho sewage treatment plants need to clean up their act to ensure clean water for Idahoans and the environment, according to a new report.

The Idaho Conservation League report shows wastewater treatment plants in the state racked up more than 1,700 violations of the Clean Water Act between 2014 and 2016.

In that same three-year span, 81 percent of the plants violated regulations on discharges.

Justin Hayes, program director for the Idaho Conservation League, says those discharges are often made into nearby bodies of water.

"People fish in those rivers, people swim in those rivers with their kids, we play and wade in them,” he points out. “And if the sewage treatment plant is discharging too much pollution to the creek, that means people are being exposed to things that could make them sick.

“That might mean that fish are being exposed to chemicals that will then harm people, if the people eat those fish."

Hayes notes that violations included discharging too much E. coli, a dangerous bacteria that can make people sick and, in rare cases, even kill them.

While most facilities had at least one violation during the three-year time period, 22 plants received no violations.

Ten facilities accounted for nearly half the violations. The City of Inkom, near Pocatello, received the most violations, at 194.

Hayes says the worst violators on the list need to take a hard look at whether their wastewater treatment plants are being run properly.

"They need to consider whether or not they need to make investments in new equipment, in technology upgrades at their facilities,” he states. “Sometimes, that means they need to invest more money in those facilities. But that's really what is required and expected of cities."

Violations of the Clean Water Act carry a fine of up to $51,000 dollars per violation.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID