Idaho america

US Department of Justice sues Idaho town for water pollution

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The federal government is suing a small Idaho town near Grand Teton National Park for dumping toxic waste from its sewage treatment plant into a creek that feeds several scenic rivers in the area.

The US Department of Justice lawsuit was filed in US District Court in Idaho on Monday. The federal government alleges that the town of Driggs violated the Clean Water Act by dumping effluent containing too much e. coli and ammonia or have otherwise violated wastewater treatment permit rules more than 2,600 times in the past seven years.

Effluent was discharged into Woods Creek, which empties into the Teton River, Henry’s Fork, Snake and Columbia rivers en route to the Pacific Ocean. The Teton River and Henry’s Fork are renowned fly fishing spots, attracting anglers from around the world. The violations, if proven, could see the city of about 2,100 people fined more than $160 million.

In a written statement, the city of Driggs said the lawsuit is a positive development because it will allow EPA and city officials to work together to find solutions.

“While it sounds scary to be sued by the Department of Justice, it is actually an opportunity to receive support and resources,” from the federal government, Driggs Mayor August Christensen wrote in the statement. .

City attorney Sam Angell said the lawsuit is a “procedural step” in the process of reaching a settlement agreement with the federal agency.

The Driggs Wastewater Treatment Facility treats sanitary waste and sewage from several small communities in the area. The facility failed to meet federal standards for years, and in 2018 the city and the Environmental Protection Agency reached a legal settlement under which Driggs would retrofit the plant to comply with the rules on sewage within two years.

That didn’t happen, however, triggering the federal lawsuit. The Justice Department is asking a judge to fine the city, ordering it to comply with the Clean Water Act and other federal pollution rules.