The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says Hailey, Idaho, is discharging too much sewage effluent into the Big Wood River, and the agency will block almost all sewer hookups in the city until Hailey builds a sewage treatment plant or upgrades the old one.
Under terms of an order sent by EPA officials to Hailey on Wednesday, Hailey can allow only 14 new hookups to the sewage treatment system through the end of October. After that, the city can allow no more hookups until it can show it meets terms of its wastewater permit.
The Big Wood River is classified by the state as a “special resource water body” with value as fish habitat and for recreational use.
The EPA order said that by next June, the city must start construction of new or remodeled facilities, have them finished by April 1999 and attain compliance with its wastewater discharge permit by Aug. 1, 1999.
The EPA regional office in Seattle said that in the past year, Hailey has committed “dozens of violations” of its permit with discharges into the Big Wood River of chlorine and other substances that can deplete the river of the oxygen needed to support resident fish.
In addition to the violations, EPA said it is concerned about the age of the treatment plant. One clarifier at the plant is more than 25 years old and has no backup. Failure of the clarifier could cause a spill of pollutants that would have serious consequences for water quality.
The city had imposed its own moratorium on sewage hookups, but it recently lifted it for 125 new connections.
Because 14 of those connections still are in the works, EPA said they can be hooked up between now and Oct. 31. But after that, no new hookups will be allowed until the sewage plant is expanded, the agency said.
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