SEPTIC SYSTEMS CAN CAUSE NUTRIENT AND BACTERIAL CONTAMINATION OF OUR GROUNDWATER — OUR ONLY SOURCE OF DRINKING WATER.
As a headwaters community of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, our outstanding water resources deserve the best protection — equal to the value they provide our community.
In May 2021, Teton County released proposed updates to the Small Wastewater Facility (septic system) Regulations for Public Comment. POWJH took a leadership role to ensure the proposed rules protected drinking water and the environment.
Proper management of septic systems is of critical importance to our water resources. It is widely accepted that poor management can cause nutrient and microbial contamination to groundwater. Teton County’s Small Wastewater Facility (SWF) Regulations need to be stronger to protect our Sole Source Aquifer. Unfortunately, many of the septic systems in Teton County are improperly managed and do not provide the level of treatment necessary to adequately protect public health, and surface and groundwater quality.
We advocated extending the Public Comment period from 45 to 60 days, as well as including a Public Meeting and a Public Hearing in the review process. POWJH also submitted detailed public comment on the revised rules.
Although the proposed updates to the regulations included some provisions to increase water quality protections, they did not go far enough. POWJH highlighted three primary concerns surrounding the updates we would like to see addressed;
- The proposed updates only apply to new septic system permits. The regulations should apply to all existing systems, especially the system maintenance provisions.
- The proposed rules did not address the need for a septic system inspection program.
- The proposed rules did not sufficiently protect public drinking water because most of Teton County’s 113 public drinking water systems do not have Source Water Assessments or Protection Plans.
Even though the Teton County Commissioners approved the revised regulations without the improvements suggested by POWJH, they did schedule a workshop in February 2022 to prioritize investigating septic system inspection, maintenance, and compliance programs. The Water Quality Master Plan process will also review POWJH’s concerns in detail.