By Derf Johnson
The Lazy J South subdivision is threatening an already-impaired Gallatin River. Image via Upper Missouri Waterkeeper.
In a late-breaking case, a Montana district court judge has found that the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) failed to comply with the law when it issued a wastewater discharge permit that could further harm the Gallatin River. The court found that DEQ failed to adequately consider the cumulative impacts of wastewater pollution on the Gallatin River from sewage discharge from the Lazy J South subdivision in Big Sky.
MEIC and Upper Missouri Waterkeeper filed the complaint in July 2021, asserting that DEQ violated the Montana Water Quality Act in permitting the subdivision. Lazy J South is a residential and commercial development located less than half a mile from the Gallatin River in Big Sky. The Gallatin River is already suffering from major impacts associated with elevated levels of nutrients in the water, which recently caused the DEQ to designate the river an “impaired water.”
The Court ordered DEQ to perform a new assessment of the permit that fully examines the cumulative impacts of wastewater discharges on the Gallatin River system.
This is an important victory for clean water in Montana and sets the precedent to reign in unmitigated development that encroaches on our waterways. The case was brought by Guy Alsentzer of Upper Missouri Waterkeeper and Derf Johnson of MEIC.
This article was published in the Dec. 2022 issue of Down To Earth.