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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of February 13 - 19, 2002


County could require groundwater studies

Express Staff Writer

To get a better picture of how a proposed real estate development might affect groundwater quality, Blaine County could begin requiring developers to pay for in-depth groundwater studies before building.

That was the message two health districts delivered to the Blaine County Commission Monday during its second meeting in the last two weeks on water-quality issues.

A current rule enforced by the South Central District Health Department requires that no more than one septic system per acre be installed in Blaine County.

But that rule was stretched last summer when the county approved an application for 20 systems in a 20-acre neighborhood, even though individual lots were less than one-acre each.

It is not known whether that higher density of septic systems, over time, will lead to contaminants seeping into groundwater. But before approving such subdivisions in the future, the county might insist on knowing.

Paul Hunter, a geologist who works for the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and the Central District Health Department, told the commission that requiring nutrient pathogen studies of proposed developments would do that.

The studies range in cost from $1,500 to $20,000 and predict whether below-ground sewage disposal will degrade groundwater.

Some counties, like Ada, Valley and Elmore, already require the studies for proposed subdivisions of five or more lots, and from proposed commercial facilities that would generate 600 gallons or more of wastewater each day.

The studies can involve collecting soil and water samples, sometimes over a period of months, and feeding data into a complex computer program that models the underground flow of contaminants over a period of years.

Information from the program could help planners cluster development in areas where it would be the least likely to harm groundwater.

The information could also identify areas that are especially sensitive to contamination, where septic systems could be limited or prohibited.

The Blaine County Drinking Water Protection Committee, which has been meeting monthly, will consider the information presented Monday as it continues to draft its Drinking Water Protection Plan.

The plan would present a framework for revisions to county subdivision laws and could be completed this summer.

The committee meets again at 3 p.m. Feb. 20 at the Old County Courthouse.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.