DEQ again dings company working on Gateway sewer system

DEQ again dings company working on Gateway sewer system

Source: Bozeman Daily Chronicle
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Michael Wright Chronicle Staff Writer

The state’s environmental regulator has cited the construction company working on sewer system improvements in Gallatin Gateway for dirtying the Gallatin River for the second time in a matter of months.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality sent JR Civil a second violation letter late last month saying the company had violated the Montana Water Quality Act because of runoff into the Gallatin River, that the company hasn’t been keeping adequate records and that it lacks an adequate plan for controlling its water. It also says the company failed to fix problems DEQ pointed out in the first violation letter, which was sent to the company in March.

The letter asked the company to clean up all its discharged sediment, create and use a dewatering plan and complete more water sampling. JR Civil sent a one-page response to DEQ, saying it had cleaned up the dirt and changed its dewatering program to comply. It also said the company is using structures to keep the runoff from being harmful, and that they are checking those structures daily.

Bob Wittenberg, the general superintendent of JR Civil, said they’ve cleaned up silt and that grass is growing back in the spot where the runoff was happening.

DEQ spokeswoman Jeni Flatow said in an email that the agency will review the company’s response and “determine next steps.”

The Gallatin Gateway Wastewater Improvement Project will create a central sewer system for the town. It will connect it to the Four Corners Water and Sewer District, where water can be treated. The project is expected to be completed next fall.

Work began this spring. The company’s original violation came while they were building a lift station near Lynde Street in Gateway. The company had a permit from DEQ that would allow them to pump groundwater out and dump it on an adjacent field, provided the turbidity of the river stay within certain limits.

After receiving an anonymous complaint, DEQ inspectors found that the turbidity had far surpassed the limits set in the permit because of problems with the dewatering pumps. DEQ said the company also wasn’t doing enough to ensure the water didn’t pick up too much sediment.

The letter the company received last month said they hadn’t responded to that violation letter adequately, and that some of the structures they were using to keep the water from picking up too much sediment weren’t working. It also said the company needed to complete more testing and monitoring.

In their response, JR Civil said they are now changing where they discharge pumped groundwater so that it doesn’t end up in the river. They are now piping water to a “discharge settling pond,” which they’ve promised to clean up after they are finished dewatering.

There have also been complaints about workers on the project hitting underground gas lines. Northwestern Energy spokesman Butch Larcombe said in an email that Northwestern has been called to the work site “on several occasions to deal with natural gas lines hit by construction equipment.” The most recent, Larcombe said, was a little more than a week ago, when workers hit a gas line buried 30 inches deep.

“They did not take the proper steps to locate the gas lines before beginning work,” Larcombe said.

Wittenberg said he wasn’t aware of workers hitting gas lines, but that workers did hit a service line that was buried 8 inches deep. He said they’ve had problems there because the utility’s lines are “unlocateable,” and that Northwestern doesn’t even know where all the gas lines are.

“We’re doing our due diligence,” Wittenberg said.