Friday, April 13, 2012

Hailey eyes changes to water permit

Officials want EPA to cut some restrictions on pollutants

Express Staff Writer

Hailey officials are petitioning the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to remove some restrictions on pollutants entering the Big Wood River from the Hailey wastewater treatment facility.

The city claims that eliminating restrictions on phosphorous discharges could increase incentives for developing a water reclamation system that could be used for municipal irrigation.

The city has discussed a conceptual plan for using reclaimed, or partially treated, wastewater for irrigation on city-owned property.

The EPA published on March 14 a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for Hailey's wastewater treatment plant, which discharges treated water from the Woodside Boulevard treatment facility into the Big Wood.

The permit allows for total maximum daily loads of pollutants, including phosphorous and E. coli bacteria, from the facility.

Similar permits are issued for other "point sources" along the Big Wood River, including the city of Ketchum's facility and one located at The Meadows, south of Ketchum.

Hailey Public Works Director Tom Hellen said at a City Council meeting Monday that the Big Wood River also gets a high amount of unmeasured phosphorous from "non-point sources" such as lawns and ranches that use phosphorous fertilizers during summer.

Hellen said one reason for a letter he sent to EPA challenging the city's allowable limits of discharges was to have the agency consider these sources of pollution—and eventually require reductions from them—when setting the maximum discharge from Hailey.

"The study from 10 years ago did not take into account seasonal fluctuations and non-point sources," he said in an interview.

Hellen was referring to a study used today by the Department of Environmental Quality, the Idaho agency charged with upholding EPA regulations.

Hellen's letter to the EPA, which was authorized by the City Council on Monday, included a request to reduce new surface-water monitoring requirements and increased E. coli restrictions contained in the permit.

Tony Evans:

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