A new wastewater pond at Spanish Peaks Mountain Club in Big Sky is leaking treated effluent intended for golf-course irrigation, slated to begin in summer 2018.
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Friday that the pond started leaking when Spanish Peaks managers filled it for the first time, and they reported to it DEQ on Nov. 21.
The leak is producing approximately 4 gallons of water per minute and isn’t believed to be impacting any nearby water sources, Kristi Ponozzo, DEQ’s public policy director, told the Chronicle.
Calls to Ponozzo and the Big Sky Water and Sewer District were not immediately returned.
Construction on the Spanish Peaks effluent pond began May 8 and holds nearly 15 million gallons of Big Sky sewer district wastewater. It is located in the southwest area of The Ranches neighborhood, below Wilderness Ridge Trail.
Jon Olsen, director of development and engineering at Lone Mountain Land Company, explained that the project was still in the construction phase when a small leak was discovered while the general contractor, Dick Anderson Construction, was in the process of performing leak testing on the pond, as required by the Montana Department of Environment Quality. Olsen added it is 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 said the construction company is in the process of draining the pond to find the small leak, which they hope to occur early in the week of Dec. 4. 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 leaking per hour are believed to be natural groundwater, not wastewater. As an additional precautionary measure, Dick Anderson has installed a containment system that captures all leaking effluent and pumps that effluent back into the pond.
“Thus, 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.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.