ICL report details Idaho wastewater plant crisis

By Cameron Rasmusson
Reader Staff

Sandpoint was among 87 Idaho communities to receive a failing grade in an Idaho Conservation League report analyzing the health of the state’s wastewater treatment systems.

According to the report, Sandpoint’s treatment facility reported 20 violations of its wastewater discharge permit. The violations indicate instances in which levels of bacteria, chemicals, toxic metals or other contaminants exceeded the standards allowed by its Environmental Protection Agency discharge permit.

Map courtesy Idaho Conservation League.

“Sewage plants are required to meet EPA’s water quality standards before discharging into Idaho waters,” said Austin Walkins, ICL’s senior conservation associate. “But when nearly eight out of every 10 fail to meet these standards, that means that the water we, our families, our pets and Idaho’s wildlife drink, swim and recreate in may seriously harm or endanger health.”

While Sandpoint received a failing grade, its infractions don’t hold a candle to the worst offenders in the state. According to the ICL report, Inkom topped the list at 161 violations. Hagerman followed with 133 violations. Driggs had 116 violations, Wilder had 95, Plummer had 74, Genesee had 71, Nezperce had 59, Kendrick had 50, Council had 48 and Worley had 45. Those 10 offenders accounted for nearly half the violations in the state, with the top three located in southern Idaho.

“Idahoans feel very strongly about their right to clean water for drinking, fishing and swimming,” the report reads. “Municipal wastewater treatment plants are really the front line for protecting water quality and human health. … Yet, just 24% of the sewage treatment plants reviewed for this report are operating without violating their pollution discharge limits.” 

By contrast, only 27 Idaho facilities reported no violations. Passing communities in North Idaho include Bonners Ferry, Post Falls, the Kootenai-Ponderay Sewer District and Dover.

“Achieving 100% compliance with one’s NPDES permit is not an accident,” the report reads. “These communities deserve praise for prioritizing clean water.” 

The city of Sandpoint already has a plan to address its wastewater issues. With the existing wastewater treatment plant strained by age and increased capacity demands, Sandpoint City Council members approved a plan to expand it over the coming years. The upgrades will dramatically expand capacity and meet the EPA’s latest purity standards.

While we have you ...

... if you appreciate that access to the news, opinion, humor, entertainment and cultural reporting in the Sandpoint Reader is freely available in our print newspaper as well as here on our website, we have a favor to ask. The Reader is locally owned and free of the large corporate, big-money influence that affects so much of the media today. We're supported entirely by our valued advertisers and readers. We're committed to continued free access to our paper and our website here with NO PAYWALL - period. But of course, it does cost money to produce the Reader. If you're a reader who appreciates the value of an independent, local news source, we hope you'll consider a voluntary contribution. You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.

You can contribute at either Paypal or Patreon.

Contribute at Patreon Contribute at Paypal

You may also like...

Close [x]

Want to support independent local journalism?

The Sandpoint Reader is our town's local, independent weekly newspaper. "Independent" means that the Reader is locally owned, in a partnership between Publisher Ben Olson and Keokee Co. Publishing, the media company owned by Chris Bessler that also publishes Sandpoint Magazine and Sandpoint Online. Sandpoint Reader LLC is a completely independent business unit; no big newspaper group or corporate conglomerate or billionaire owner dictates our editorial policy. And we want the news, opinion and lifestyle stories we report to be freely available to all interested readers - so unlike many other newspapers and media websites, we have NO PAYWALL on our website. The Reader relies wholly on the support of our valued advertisers, as well as readers who voluntarily contribute. Want to ensure that local, independent journalism survives in our town? You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.