Missoula, MT - A national watchdog group has settled its lawsuit charging the City of Missoula with violating the Clean Water Act by fouling the Clark Fork River. In the settlement agreement between the city and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the city does not admit fault but does agree to upgrade its sewage system, improve its water quality monitoring efforts and pay $100,000 for pollution prevention projects and attorney fees.
PEER filed its suit in federal district court against the city on July 9, 2001. The suit arose out of charges by Missoula Wastewater Treatment Plant employees of malfeasance within the plant resulting in sewage bypasses, tainted groundwater from sewage sludge and backflow threatening city drinking water. These charges had been documented in a PEER-released white paper, entitled Fouling Our Nest, written by current and former treatment plant employees.
The settlement filed with the federal district court requires the city to fund -
- System Upgrades. Installation of a functional Ultraviolet System and Secondary Lift Pump Station as well as a public drinking water supply at the treatment plant;
- Stricter Water Quality Monitoring. Enhanced sampling for fecal coliform and residual chlorine, prompt written reports of effluent overflows and a daily monitoring of plant outfall; and
- Pollution Prevention Projects. The City of Missoula will pay $45,000 to the Tri-State Water Quality Council for projects to reduce pollution in the Clark Fork Basin.
"We couldn't be happier with this settlement. It is a great outcome for the people of Missoula and for the future of the Clark Fork," stated Montana PEER Director Kevin Keenan, a former DEQ water quality enforcement official. "A number of treatment plant employees put themselves on the line to ensure that the truth came out. The city should owe them a debt of gratitude."
Representing PEER in the suit were Richard Smith, of the Seattle-based law firm Smith & Lowney, and Dan Meyer, PEER's General Counsel.
A copy of the the white paper, Fouling Our Nest, is available on request.