Letter

Protect Water Quality for Future Generations

This is not the time to weaken standards that protect water quality

By Kate Sheridan

As residents of the Flathead and Mission valleys, we are fortunate to live next to one of the cleanest lakes in the world. However, two bills under consideration at the Legislature may inflict irrevocable harm on the waters we swim, fish, and drink from. SB 164 and SB 358 would both increase the level of allowable nutrient pollution in our waterways and threaten our future.

These bills would take us from a precautionary approach to a crisis management approach, that will degrade water quality, harm human health, and cost more money in the end to remediate. For example, SB 164 would increase the amount of nitrate pollution (i.e., human waste) that can be discharged from domestic septic systems. There is a margin of safety with the current non-degradation standard of 5mg/L. Current law allows for other sources of nitrates that are either unregulated or unexpected, to ensure that we do not surpass safe drinking water standards of 10mg/L. SB 164 would needlessly weaken these standards. 

Poor water quality – the inevitable outcome of increased nitrate inputs – not only degrades ecosystems and human health, but it also degrades our overall quality of life, our community, and our businesses. The health of our local economy is directly tied to the health of our watershed, as seen in the Feb. 4 article “The Economic Value of Lakes.” Visitors, new homeowners, and families that have been here for generations all contribute millions of dollars to our local economies through the tax base and revenue.

The Flathead Lakers have worked to protect our waters since 1958. Montana currently has nutrient pollution standards in place that we can be proud of – our legacy to a healthy environment, as guaranteed by our state constitution. This is not the time to weaken standards that protect water quality, both now, and for future generations.

Kate Sheridan, executive director
Flathead Lakers

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