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Something Smells: ID Wastewater Treatment Violations Widespread

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Ten of the 112 wastewater facilities in Idaho accounted for nearly half of all discharge violations.

Wastewater facilities in Idaho are flush with pollution violations.

The Idaho Conservation League's fourth annual wastewater treatment report found more than three-quarters of plants violated U.S. Environmental Protection Agency discharge permits between 2017 and 2019.

Austin Walkins, climate campaign coordinator with the group, said ICL focuses on these facilities because almost every Idaho city has one that empties into rivers and lakes.

"And as our reports have highlighted over a number of years now," said Walkins, "a lot of facilities are struggling to meet the permit requirements that they need to meet to protect water quality, to protect fish, to protect human health."

Violations included excessive amounts of chemicals, toxic metals and bacteria like E. coli.

But the infractions weren't distributed equally. Ten of the 112 facilities accounted for nearly half of all violations.

Walkins said all ten are working toward compliance in agreements with the EPA or other agencies. He said ICL takes any violation seriously.

"A facility that only violates their permit once but that happens to be at the most critical time when humans and fish and everyone's in close contact with that water," said Walkins, "that could still have some pretty serious consequences."

Walkins said communities have pointed to these reports as reasons they want to clean up.

He said he believes communities are moving in the right direction. The number of facilities without a violation increased from 19 in the 2019 report to 28 this year.

"So that's very promising, and we applaud the hard work," said Walkins. "These are not easy facilities to operate. They're very complex, but as we note in our report, a number of facilities are reporting zero violations. So it's not impossible."