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Water Quality District seeks to reduce Clark Fork of contaminants

By Andrea Olson, KECI Reporter, aolson@keci.com
Published On: May 13 2014 11:00:19 PM MDT
MISSOULA, Mont. -

A new water quality study shows storm water is sending contaminants into the Clark Fork River.

The contamination is relatively high and the water quality district wants to change that.

Water runs through the heart of Missoula as the Clark Fork river winds its way west.  People swim in it, fish in it, or just need to be near it.

The water that comes into Missoula upstream is a lot different than the water that comes out of the city downstream and there's a problem, what's coming out of storm water drains.

“If somebody uses the alley as a dumping ground, or a toilet for that matter, everything flows to the river directly with no treatment," said Peter Nielsen, supervisor of the Water Quality District.

Nielsen says storm water is a problem for the Clark Fork and they want to find a better way to treat it before it spills from storm drains into the Clark Fork and Bitterroot rivers.

The Water Quality District has a plan.  They plan to apply for a grant that would help pay for a device called a hydrodynamic separator and an infiltration gallery of underground pipes that reduces sediment.

"The hydrodynamic separator uses the force of the water to create centrifugal force and it settles out the solids, which are later pumped out and later, clean water flows out," said Nielsen.

Contaminated water runs into the separator and is removed twice a year, reducing contaminants by 80 percent. 

The grant would come from the Montana Department of National Resources and Conservation.  If they're successful, $125,000 would leave the Water Quality District with a balance of $75,000.

"It could be a private funding source to fund that shortfall," said Kevin Slovarp, City Engineer with Development Services.

What do Missoula residents think?  NBC Montana went to the streets to get some feedback.

"It's a little cloudy because its high water and it's always a little gray," said resident Mark Ford.

"I don't think it's dirty you know, there's worse places that you could be swimming, I guess," said resident Nick Banish.

"I mean anything to protect our environment, but as long as it's not taxpayer pocket," said another resident, Carrie Bonn.

Right now, the Water Quality District is seeking public input on the $200,000 project.