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Officials say sewage may be leaking from holding ponds near Holland Lake

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality said wastewater may be leaking from holding ponds that sit just uphill from Holland Lake in the Swan Valley.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) laid out its concerns in an August letter sent to the U.S. Forest Service. The agency said its engineers determined wastewater lagoons that serve the historic Holland Lake Lodge and a nearby campground may be leaking more than state policy allows.

It also requested that the Forest Service run tests of the site by September 17th. But, in an emailed statement, the DEQ told MTPR it granted the Forest Service an extension. That bumped the testing deadline to mid-November.

The delay is unwelcome news for members of advocacy group Save Holland Lake. Bill Lombardi said the organization first alerted the state to the potential leak.

“Well, as we said, we were not only disappointed, but dismayed,” Lombardi said in a phone interview. “They’ve had years and years to fix this problem and to adequately monitor it.” 

Forest Service spokesperson Dan Hottle said in a statement that Holland Lake Lodge and the nearby campground will need to be closed to get accurate results from testing.

Lombardi told MTPR that Save Holland Lake is concerned any leaking wastewater could impact the health of the lake, which provides habitat for threatened bull trout.

Holland Lake Lodge sparked intense public scrutiny last fall when a Utah-based resort company announced plans to triple the size of the facility. The lodge sits on the Flathead National Forest and uses a special permit to operate on public land.

The Flathead National Forest oversees that permit and has not yet approved transferring it to the lodge’s new corporate owner.

Austin graduated from the University of Montana’s journalism program in May 2022. He came to MTPR as an evening newscast intern that summer, and jumped at the chance to join full-time as the station’s morning voice in Fall 2022.

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