MT Dept. of Agriculture Water Testing Finds Bad Stuff

by jhwygirl

Groundwater sampling by the Montana Department of Agriculture (MDA), from Lolo to Darby, found acceptable levels for both human and aquatic standards of pesticides, along with unacceptable levels of nitrates in one monitoring well.

You all know what nitrates are, right?

Some of you might remember me writing about how filthy the Clark Fork is – so filthy that I won’t allow my dog to swim in it – and anyone who is hitting the Bitterroot in late summer can tell you that the release of this recent MDA test isn’t really new information. It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out that Montana’s streams and rivers and waterbodies are in trouble.

Oddly enough, a few days after writing the above post about the Clark Fork being too filthy for my dog, there were a notable number of calls to the County Health Department inquiring whether the Clark Fork was clean enough for caller’s pets. And regardless of what Peter Nielsen has to say, I’ll err on the safe side and keep it to Lolo Creek and the Blackfoot especially when it comes to late summer.

This recent revelation by the Ravalli Republic and MDA does have me wondering – How many groundwater monitoring wells do we have here in Missoula? Who is monitoring them? How often are they monitored? What are the recent results? I mean – when Peter Nielsen declared, in September (late summer, folks) that the Clark Fork was “safe” for pets – was he just referring to arsenic levels (which are – to remind you – at question, regardless of what DEQ, EPA and County officials are telling us)?

In other words – who is monitoring nitrate and pesticide and all that other “stuff” we’re hearing about that is in our water? Stuff like prescription drugs like anti-depressants and other mind-altering drugs?

This is where I wish I were a journalist, folks – because not only am I asking for these specific tests from DEQ, MDA EPA, etc., this is the kind of stuff that I’m looking at find some lab students at the university and/or some independent water lab to test some water samples to tell me how the data compares.

Water quality isn’t something we should be screwing around with or delaying or assuming is fine. Do remember, too, that in a recent audit, the EPA is questioning MT DEQ’s ability to protect water quality.

So – with THANKS to the Ravalli Republic for printing a story that was not to be found in any of the other state’s papers today – I ask: What is Montana Without Clean Water?

Someone, please, make me a bumpersticker!

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  1. goof houlihan

    It really is outrageous that the Clark fork isn’t fit to swim in. There are rivers all over this country that flow through far more industrial and inhabited areas that are clean enough for swimming.

  2. klemz

    Nobody ran it because its a non story. I think you got tripped up by the wording of the lead.

    Nitrates along with low pesticide levels means a non-agricultural source (unless there’s a golf course nearby), which probably indicates a higher-than-recommended density of septic systems.

  3. klemz – first, it was from Darby to Lolo that the testing was done.

    And – all the points you bring up, related to what MDA found, are relevant. We shouldn’t be approving stuff willy-nilly, nor should we be shoving off zoning or public water and sewage systems. Because of “all that”, this is an important story.

    Just because the river ain’t on fire doesn’t mean all is well.

    The issue needs repeated, over and over, and drilled into people’s heads. There’s a lot behind my “What is Montana without it’s rivers,” and “What is Montana without clean water” statement – as we were discussing earlier today in my other post, outdoor recreation is the largest growing economic sector in Montana. Loose that clean water and we have more than just a few fishy to cry about.

    Just because somethings been written about before doesn’t mean it isn’t worth repeating.

  4. JC

    Goof, most of the Clark Fork’s issues are because it runs through the country’s largest Super Fund site. While much is being spent to clean it up, there are a tremendous amount of issues yet to be addressed, and many that occur because of the clean up.

    I think that 10, 20 years down the road the Clark Fork will be a much cleaner and functional river, and safer. If you compare it to 20-40 years ago, it has come a long way.

    But jhwygirl is right, and is asking the pertinent questions. The madness of it all, is that our local daily print rag has no investigative journalistic capacity or desire to bring clarity to the issue.

    It seems easy for many, that just because something is being “done” about the river, that all is peachy keen. It just ain’t so.

  5. JC – I don’t know about “most” – I think a good portion of the Clark Fork’s problems stem from septic tanks – in East Missoula and up the Rattlesnake. Gallatin County isn’t without it’s woes either – the Madison runs slow and warm due to over irrigation and plenty of nitrate issues.

    Missoula could do a whole hell of a lot to discuss and address out outdated and failing septic issues. It seems like we bring them up and then East Missoula or the Rattlesnake people start whining and then it all disappears back into the shadows for another 4 months.

    I’m not as optimistic as you – without action, in 10, 20 years, the Clark Fork won’t be must more than a big old septic run unless we get proactive and require upgraded septic systems – like Lewis & Clark County has (Type 2, I believe?) – or start putting East Missoula and the Rattlesnake on sewer.

    BTW – some of you longer term residents might know – Isn’t East Missoula supposed to be annexed into the city sometime soon? Wasn’t there some kind of deal worked out with the county many years ago that had the annexation occurring in 7, 8 or 10 years? Aren’t we creeping up on that? That kinda pushes the sewage v septic issue….

  6. klemz

    You miss my meaning. I’m saying (unless we’re reading a different story) that the pesticide levels were below the MCL thresholds, according to Cramer.

    Besides that, I grew up along south Lake Michigan, so its hard for me to get worked up over nitrates. Whats the standard these days? 10 ppm? I’ve drank tap water in a town with 50. Unless you’re an infant, it’s relatively harmless.

    Besides, if local babies start turning blue, it might convince visitors that Missoula has been overrun by kobolds, which would be awesome.

  7. goof houlihan

    Arsenic would come from the superfund site, or heavy metals, but nitrates come from shit, and fertilizer.

    It ain’t the superfund site that’s taking a dump in the Clark fork.




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