News broke the afternoon of March 3rd that a large treated water spill occurred near Big Sky, Montana. The wastewater infrastructure failure is an unfortunate reminder that we must be vigilant when development occurs in Greater Yellowstone’s sensitive watersheds. We applaud the forthright response from the system managers to immediately alert state officials of the release of an estimated 35 million gallons of treated sewage water into the West Fork of the Gallatin River.
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality reports that the spill has no health effects on humans, but the impact to fish and invertebrate life is uncertain. Although the cause of the apparent pipe break is not fully understood, it is clear that additional safeguards could have minimized this event. Incidents like these speak to the necessity to employ the highest levels of scrutiny, safety and infrastructure inspection when building in sensitive environmental areas such as Big Sky. We call on utility managers to make an extra effort to ensure the best available technology, engineering, and planning are employed to protect Greater Yellowstone’s land, water, and wildlife.
The Gallatin River is one of several streams in the region that the Greater Yellowstone Coalition along with Montanans for Healthy Rivers are working to protect under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Collectively, the coalition has secured endorsements for this protection from many large businesses in Big Sky, including the Chamber of Commerce.
Read more about the spill here.
-- Bob Zimmer, Waters Program Coordinator