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Environmental regulators to decide on selenium pollution standards

Montana environmental regulators are poised to make a decision on whether to throw out a water pollution standard for Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenai River in northwest Montana.

Selenium has been leaching from Teck Resources’ British Columbia coal mining operations for decades, polluting both Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenai River in Montana. Selenium at high levels is known to harm fish reproduction.

In 2020, Montana and U.S. environmental regulators approved a more stringent selenium standard for the transboundary Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenai River which is downstream.

Teck Resources and Lincoln County commissioners later asked the Montana Board of Environmental Review to roll back the selenium rule. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality and EarthJustice have both asked the board to throw out those requests.

The board will review public comment on the issue at its next meeting on Feb. 25 and could make a decision.

Aaron Bolton is Montana Public Radio's Flathead Valley reporter.