By IRIS SAMUELS, Associated Press/Report for America

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Environmental groups are challenging the Montana Department of Environmental Quality for permitting wastewater disposal into the groundwater for a new development in Big Sky that they say could degrade water quality in the Gallatin River downstream from Yellowstone National Park.

The Upper Missouri Waterkeeper and Montana Environmental Information Center filed Friday a complaint in Gallatin County court over the department’s May decision to approve a groundwater pollution permit for a septic system owned by Lazy J South, a residential and commercial development less than half a mile from the Gallatin River.

The groups say that the permit could lead to increased algal blooms in the river, which is already suffering from unprecedented noxious algal blooms downstream from Big Sky. Such blooms could harm recreational activities on the river, including trout fishing and whitewater rafting, according to the court filing.

“The Montana DEQ is asleep at the switch when it comes to protecting our water from irresponsible subdivisions and poorly planned development,” Derf Johnson, staff attorney with the Montana Environmental Quality Information Center said in a statement.

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