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By Brett French, Billings Gazette

Legislature eases regulations on subdivision water, septic rules

This session, the Republican-dominated Legislature loosened requirements for monitoring water quality when some subdivisions are built.

Under Senate Bill 240, signed by Gov. Greg Gianforte on May 2, subdivisions with 14 lots or less that are 2 miles from high quality water and meet other criteria are exempt from review under the Montana Environmental Policy Act, said Derf Johnson, deputy director of the Montana Environmental Information Center.

Johnson said MEPA isn’t a prohibition, it’s an evaluation, and without assessments the cumulative effects of such development can go undetected.

Since the Clean Water Act doesn’t address septic systems, Johnson said the state is seeing a gradual increase in nutrient pollution in the groundwater. That’s showing up as algae blooms in rivers as summer drought shrinks streamflows.


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