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Officials approve a plan to protect the Bitterroot River from nutrient pollution

The Bitterroot River in western Montana.
Nick Mott
Montana Public Radio
The Bitterroot River in western Montana.

Federal environmental regulators have approved a plan for protecting western Montana’s Bitterroot River from nutrient pollution.

The 84-mile-long Bitterroot River flows north through the Bitterroot Valley. It’s not currently impaired by nutrient pollution, which can create algae growth. This occurs when too many nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus are added to water.

It’s the only river of its size in a highly populated area of the state that isn’t contaminated by the pollution coming from lawn fertilizer, human and animal waste. Officials, residents, and organizations want to keep it that way.

The Environmental Protection Agency has accepted the Bitterroot River Nutrient Protection Plan. It was written by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality with support from interested individuals and organizations.

The plan recommends voluntary ways of reducing nutrient pollution. Examples include restoring and protecting native streamside vegetation and recommending existing homes and new construction hook into municipal sewer systems whenever possible.

The plan is the first of its kind in EPA’s six state mountains and plains region

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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