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Montana DEQ investigating Columbia Falls Treatment Plant sewage discharge

C Falls
Posted at 8:02 AM, Aug 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-18 10:08:17-04

COLUMBIA FALLS - We’re learning more about a power failure at the Columbia Falls Wastewater Treatment Plant that led to partially treated sewage being discharged into the Flathead River.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is investigating the incident and reports that a power failure of the main breaker and backup generator led to the discharge.

DEQ Supervisor Darryl Barton said the outage occurred Monday morning and was dumping partially treated sewage into the Flathead River for roughly 24 hours.

Barton said fish and native habitat to the river were likely unharmed from the sewage. He noted the sewage caused more potential harm to humans recreating on the river near the wastewater plant while sewage was being discharged.

He said a noncompliance report will be available within five days and will give a better idea to exactly how much partially treated sewage was discharged into the river.

“They’re designed to discharge up to half a million gallons a day, I don’t know what their flows are at this time of year, it might be lower, it’s probably lower than that, that’s a design standard, but we will know more once we get the noncompliance report back,” said Barton.

Barton said the department of environmental quality will be working closely with the city of Columbia Falls to make sure an outage of this nature does not occur again.