EBS STAFF

A repair is currently underway to fix a leak in a new wastewater pond at Spanish Peaks Mountain Club. Intended for golf course irrigation, slated to begin in summer 2018, the pond leaked an unknown amount of treated effluent.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality said that the pond started leaking when Spanish Peaks managers filled it for the first time, and they reported it to DEQ on Nov. 21.

The leak was producing approximately 4 gallons of water per minute until the club’s containment plan was executed Dec. 2, and it isn’t believed to have impacted any nearby water sources, said Kristi Ponozzo, DEQ’s public policy director. Ponozzo said that DEQ confirmed Nov. 30 that the leaking water was not impacting nearby wetlands or surface water—the closest stream to the pond is the South Fork of the West Fork of the Gallatin River, approximately 0.5 miles away.

Ponozzo said DEQ’s water quality sampling results from the treated effluent were going to be released Dec. 7, the day after EBS went to press.

DEQ approved the Spanish Peaks effluent pond’s design in March 2017, construction began in May and the pond holds nearly 15 million gallons of Big Sky Water and Sewer District wastewater. It is located in the southwest area of The Ranches neighborhood, below Wilderness Ridge Trail.

The district is expecting to reach its storage capacity in May, and this pond was built to help relieve the district’s storage issue.

“Anytime there’s an issue with capacity, it’s concerning,” BSWSD General Manager Ron Edwards said. “But we’re optimistic this will be fixed in the near future.”

Jon Olsen, director of development and engineering at Lone Mountain Land Company, said the project was still in the construction phase when a small leak was discovered by general contractor Dick Anderson Construction in the process of performing leak testing, as required by DEQ. Olsen added it’s not uncommon to discover small leaks like this one during initial testing procedures of new pond projects.

“Both Lone Mountain Land Company and Dick Anderson Construction are treating this issue with the utmost importance and have committed all necessary resources to remedy the situation as quickly as possible,” Olsen wrote in a Dec. 3 email to EBS. He added that all work is being performed in conjunction with DEQ staff.

According to Olsen, testing has shown no traces of effluent in any adjacent streams or surface water, and 2 of the 4 gallons that was leaking per hour was believed to be natural groundwater, not wastewater. As an additional precautionary measure, Dick Anderson installed a containment system that captures all leaking effluent and pumps it back into the pond and approximately 2.3 million gallons of wastewater was pumped to a Yellowstone Club wastewater pond.

“There is currently no effluent from the pond being leaked onto the ground,” Olsen wrote. “The small amount of effluent being leaked is being captured and pumped back into the pond.”

A wastewater pond leak in the Yellowstone Club in March 2015 spilled 30 million gallons of treated effluent into Second Mule Creek, and some of it eventually reached the Gallatin River.