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Yellowstone Club sued for alleged nitrogen discharge into Gallatin River tributary

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Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Meyer has sued Montana DEQ. This story has been updated to reflect that Cottonwood Environmental Law Center, of which Meyer is the executive director, is suing Montana DEQ.

BOZEMAN – Cottonwood Environmental Law Center and the Gallatin Wildlife Association sued the Yellowstone Club in federal district court last week claiming the club has discharged nitrogen into the South Fork of the West Fork of the Gallatin River, reports the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

A Cottonwood news release stated that The Yellowstone Club is over irrigating their golf course with treated sewage, polluting the South Fork of the Gallatin River.

“When a stream is water quality impaired a polluter cannot apply for a Clean Water Act permit,” John Meyer, Cottonwood’s attorney, said in a news release, as reported by the Chronicle. “We’re asking the Court to stop the Yellowstone Club from building vacation houses because they have nowhere to put their sewage.”

The South Fork of the West Fork of the Gallatin River is listed as water-quality impaired by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. The primary pollutant is soluble nitrogen released to groundwater from residential and recreational development, according to the DEQ’s Watershed Water Quality Improvement Plan.

“The Department of Environmental Quality approved this irrigation plan over a decade ago and we have since used a robust testing regime that is above and beyond what is required by law,” Rich Chandler, environmental manager at the Yellowstone Club told The Chronicle.

Montana DEQ in June also approved allowing the Yellowstone Club to use recycled wastewater to make base-level snow. This project is backed by many conservation groups in the Big Sky area, Chandler said, including the Gallatin River Task Force, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, American Rivers and Trout Unlimited.

Cottonwood has sued the Montana DEQ for their decision to permit the snowmaking project. Meyer is also representing Cottonwood in a lawsuit the firm filed against the Big Sky Water and Sewer District for claims about illegal wastewater discharge into the West Fork of the Gallatin River.

Meyer also sued Big Sky Resort in 2018 after he was involved in a ski accident, but a jury this year ruled the resort was not at fault.

“John Meyer and his fundraising group have a history of weaponizing the courts against numerous state and local entities and businesses,” Chandler said to the Chronicle. “Mr. Meyer recently sued Big Sky Resort for $50 million, which a Montana jury unanimously dismissed, and we expect the same result here.”

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