Yesterday, the Big Sky County Water & Sewer District No. 363 held a special board meeting to address the Yellowstone Club Spill. The meeting was open to the public; there was no public comment.
Ron Edwards, manager of the Big Sky Water & Sewer District, provided background on the incident. The Yellowstone Club wastewater reclamation pond was built in 2005 and approved by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Since 2005, the pond has had two small leaks (2012 and 2015) caused by holes in the pond liner, which were repaired. The Yellowstone Club believes that these leaks are unrelated to the 2016 incident.
For more information, Ron directed the public to the following online resources related to the spill: Big Sky Water & Sewer District Incident Page, Gallatin River Task Force, Montana Department of Environmental Quality, and Yellowstone Club.
Larry Alheim, Safety Director, Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), phoned in to describe the DEQ response. Late Monday when the pond stopped discharging and the water began to clear, the DEQ Incident Command disbanded. The DEQ has since transitioned from emergency response to assessment. Two DEQ sampling teams were on the river Saturday to Wednesday and plan to return Friday to continue monitoring.
Engineers from the Montana DEQ, Yellowstone Club, and Big Sky Water & Sewer District are onsite evaluating the best approach to repair the damaged outlet pipe and pond lining. In order to fix the leaking pond, engineers must determine: 1) the cause of the leak, 2) how to fix it, and 3) any design flaws that may have contributed to the spill. The damage is localized to a relatively small area surrounding the outlet pipe. Meanwhile, environmental engineers are collaborating on a remediation effort to repair the steep slope eroded by the spill. Moving forward, Montana DEQ will continue to monitor the impact and decide what level of enforcement is appropriate.
Finally, the Big Sky Water & Sewer District (BSWSD) addressed changes in wastewater capacity since the incident. According to the Big Sky Water & Sewer District, without discharging wastewater on the golf course, the Meadow Village wastewater treatment pond will reach capacity on June 9th. However, in the early spring 500,000 to 1 million gallons of wastewater can be used to irrigate the Big Sky Golf Course each day.
The Big Sky Water & Sewer District hopes to hold a series of evening public meetings to keep the public up to date on the incident and to field questions.