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Feds approve new water quality standards for Lake Koocanusa

Lake Koocanusa
Posted at 5:02 PM, Feb 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-26 19:07:12-05

DENVER — The federal government is approving a tough new set of standards to help solve the problem of selenium contamination in Lake Koocanusa.

Earlier this winter, the Montana Board of Review had approved the water quality guidelines developed after several years of study by the Department of Environmental Quality.

While selenium is a naturally-occurring, studies have shown a growing concentration of the non-metals in the waters of the reservoir, which extended north from Libby Dam, into British Columbia.

Some studies have suggested that could be caused by mining operations in Canada and could be impacting water quality downstream in the Kootenai River.

This week, the US Environmental Protection Agency signed off on the new standards, after reviewing the measures with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, and Kootenai Tribe of Idaho.

EPA says the targets are based on "sound science" and are "consistent with the Clean Water Act."

The new guidelines will back up additional studies and measures on how fish are being impacted by the contamination, and how the selenium is impacting the water column.