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Questions Remain As Yellowstone Club Wastewater Leak Stops

Water from a treated sewage holding pond at Big Sky leaks into the Gallatin River, March 3, 2016.
Courtesy Explore Big Sky/Outlaw Partners
West Fork of the South Fork of the Gallatin River on 3/3/16.

No more water is leaking from a treated sewage holding pond at Big Sky into the Gallatin River. At least 35 million gallons of the wastewater spilled into the river since last Thursday. The early phases of the investigation have revealed more questions than answers.

The last of the wastewater stopped spilling from a Yellowstone Club containment pond at about 4:30 Monday morning.

Experts continue extensive water quality testing, but those results won’t be back for several weeks.

Kristi Ponozzo of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality says the wastewater spilled over a poorly vegetated area before dumping into the Gallatin.

"So the concern with turbidity; that’s associated with sediment in the water. So, if we’re seeing high levels of turbidity we know that there’s going to be high levels of sediment in the water. That’s a concern for aquatic life, for fisheries," Ponozzo says.

Ron Aasheim of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks says there have been no reports of catastrophic wildlife loss.

"We have not seen any sign of a fish kill yet as far as we know. We just got a report this (Monday) morning, so as far as that goes – at least for now – that’s good news.”

The investigation into why this accident occurred in the first place is ongoing. A broken pipe was initially suspected, but state officials are also considering the possibility that ice ripped the holding pond’s lining.

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