Polluters Dumping into Montana Waterways

Media Contacts
Skye Borden

Environment Montana Research & Policy

Billings, MT – Industrial facilities dumped excessive pollution into Montana’s waterways 62 times over 21 months, according to a new report by Environment Montana Research & Policy Center.  The facilities rarely faced penalties for this pollution.  Environment Montana’s Troubled Waters report comes as the current administration tries to weaken clean water protections and slash enforcement funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the states.

“All Montana waterways should be clean for swimming, drinking water, and wildlife,” said Skye Borden, director of Environment Montana.  “But industrial polluters are still dumping chemicals that threaten our health and environment, and no one is holding them accountable.”

In reviewing Clean Water Act compliance data from January 2016 through September 2017, Environment Montana Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group found that major industrial facilities are regularly dumping pollution beyond legal limits set to protect human health and the environment, in Montana and across the country.   

For example, the report shows that Western Sugar Cooperative poured pollutants in excess of its permit limits 56 times into Yellowstone River, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ICIS database.  The Billings facility was one of top 20 offenders nationwide. Another Western Sugar facility in Nebraska also made the top 20 list with 67 incidents.  

The report also shows that polluters rarely face penalties, and recommends several measures to ensure stronger enforcement of, and protection for, clean water.  

“In the past few years, Western Sugar has received 35 warning letters, but they haven’t been fined a dime,” said Borden. “We need a more robust enforcement of our clean water laws — including tough penalties so that it no longer pays to pollute.” 

Recently, the current administration has moved to weaken several key provisions of the Clean Water Act and has proposed slashing EPA’s enforcement program by more than $30 million. Congress is now also set to vote on a spending bill with a rider that would allow the administration to repeal the Clean Water Rule. 

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Environment Montana Research & Policy Center works to protect clean water, clean air, and open space in America’s last best place.  We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives.