All Montanans deserve clean water — clean for swimming, for drinking, and for wildlife. That’s why Environment Montana Research & Policy Center has worked for years to protect the Yellowstone and other Montana waters. Unfortunately, new data shows that industrial polluters are still dumping chemicals into Montana waterways, and no one is holding them accountable. Moreover, officials in Washington DC are now considering rollbacks and budget cuts that would make this situation even worse.
In reviewing Clean Water Act compliance datat from January 2016 to September 2017, we found that industrial facilities dumped excessive pollution into Montana’s waterways 62 times. The full findings of our investigation are detailed in our new report, Troubled Waters.
A prime example of this pattern of pollution is the Western Sugar facility in Billings. Yesterday, we held a press conference on the bank of the Yellowstone to discuss pollution from the plant. Our report found that Western Sugar dumped excessing pollutants into the Yellowstone 56 times during our study period. This made it one of the top 20 polluters nationwide. Not only that, but the sugar producers made our top 20 list twice — both with its Billings plant and its plant in Nebraska.
Here in Montana and across the country, we depend on clean water. When the Clean Water Act was passed 45 years ago, Congress declared that all our waterways would be clean by 1983 and that all direct discharge of pollutants would cease by 1985. Decades later, 40 percent of our rivers, lakes, and streams are still polluted. And instead of ratcheting pollution down to zero, industry is still dumping chemicals into our waters beyond legal limits set to protect health and the environment.
In light of this situation, our government officials should be redoubling their efforts to protect and restor Montana’s waters. Here in the 21st century, we know how to produce things in our economy without dumping chemicals into our rivers. And for those who won’t change on their own, we need robust enforcement of our clean water laws — including tough penalties, so it no longer pays to pollute.
Instead, the current administration is weakening several key provisions of the Clean Water Act, and has proposed slashing the EPA’s enforcement program by more than $30 million. And Congress is now set to vote on a spending bill with a rider that would allow the administration to repeal the Clean Water Rule. It’s time for Montanans to speak up and tell our officials that we need clean water now.
To learn more, check out the following news stories on our report: