Contact: Kevin Keenan, MT PEER (406) 442-7216 Jessica Vallette Revere, PEER (202) 265-7337
Missoula, MT -- The City of Missoula is violating its duty to protect the Clark Fork river and safeguard its citizens by failing to diligently maintain the wastewater treatment plant and by attempting to hide potential problems by manipulating monitoring times and methods according to a suit filed today, on behalf of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), by attorney Richard Smith, from the Seattle-based law firm Smith and Lowney.
Specifically, the Missoula Wastewater Treatment Plant manipulates self-monitoring data to reduce reported violations of its permit, fails to submit self-monitoring reports in a timely manner, illegally releases partially-treated sewage into the river, neglects to maintain sewage treatment systems, and fails to report violations to the state Department of Environmental Quality.
"Settlement negotiations are not going well," said Montana PEER Director Kevin Keenan, a former DEQ water quality enforcement head. "The city continues to refuse to make changes that would prevent future violations and open their decision making processes to public scrutiny."
Current and former Missoula treatment plant employees detailed patterns of malfeasance in a PEER white paper released last October. The report, Fouling Our Nest, described a number of recent failures that caused sewage to flow into the Clark Fork River or to contaminate groundwater.
As a result of the white paper, the City convened an investigative team made up of representatives from the local health department, the county attorney's office and the Clark Fork Coalition, which released its own report on May 8 urging action in six of the seven categories of violations outlined in Fouling Our Nest. One plant employee suspected to be a whistleblower connected to the paper has been suspended from his position as a plant operator and reassigned.
"It's the classic management response to a whistleblower" stated said Montana PEER Director Kevin Keenan, a former DEQ water quality enforcement head, "They would rather fight the messengers than fix the environmental problems."
A copy of the suit, and the white paper, Fouling Our Nest, are available on request.