By MATTHEW BROWN – Associated Press
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A conservation group has filed a lawsuit against US environmental officials for alleged failure to intervene after the Montana Legislature rolled back longstanding water pollution rules.
The Bozeman-based Upper Missouri Waterkeeper group said a set of replacement rules proposed by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality will allow more nutrient pollution to enter streams, rivers and other waterways across the state.
The US Environmental Protection Agency has oversight of the state’s pollution rules and is required to approve or reject the changes but has failed to do so, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday in US District Court in Great Falls.
Nutrient pollution comes from farm fertilizer, industrial plants, treated sewage waste, pet waste and numerous other sources. It can be harmful to fish and human health by encouraging the growth of algae blooms that are sometimes toxic.
Montana has almost 60,000 miles (97,000 kilometers) of perennial rivers and streams, including major rivers such as the Missouri that drains into North Dakota and the Clark Fork of the Columbia that drains into Idaho.
Water quality for about a third of Montana’s river mileage has been assessed for pollution and most of it was found to be impaired, or harmed by pollution, to at least some degree, according to federal and state agencies.