Don't Drink the Brown Water 

There must be something in the water in the Magic Valley. How else can we explain the recent profusion of individuals and companies who think they can pump doo-doo into nearby creeks, rivers and aquifers without being noticed?

First, on July 19, the municipal wastewater treatment plant in Gooding reached a $7,500 settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency for a reeking 521 violations to the plant's Clean Water Act Permit. According to the EPA, the City of Gooding had received numerous warnings, both written and verbal, that they routinely exceeded their permit limits for chlorine, ammonia, fecal coliform and biological oxygen demand, a general measurement of the amount of microorganisms in wastewater. These pollutants, generated by the approximately 3,378 citizens utilizing the Gooding water system, were being pumped into the nearby Little Wood River, which feeds into numerous additional central Idaho rivers and waterways.

Then, last week, the Department of Agriculture announced a much more nefarious act: The Double C Farm feedlot near Oakley has been violating tiny Willow Creek, and the nearby aquifer, with a persistence and depraved imagination usually saved for cartoonish super-villains. First, the ranch was irrigating over 500 acres of farmlands without having valid water rights. They were also spraying noxious chemicals directly into the creek through a chemical sprinkler. In addition, they were allowing cattle to stand in the creek, and allowing runoff from a collapsed berm to transfer additional manure and wastewater into the creek. And finally-and most maniacally-Double C employees had jury-rigged certain pumps meant to prevent the flow of water back into the aquifer to work in the opposite direction. In other words, these contraptions operated as siphons, sucking pollution and water directly back down into the ground. As a result of the roughly 33 violations, the Double C faces over $800,000 in fines from the Ag Department and the Department of Water Resources.

With such an extensive and destructive case on the horizon, the ears of the federal EPA were understandably perked. The agency announced on July 24 that it had found the Idaho Ag Department's inspection practices to be "deficient," and that the EPA will start providing its own inspections of Idaho cattle operations. When such inspections will begin has not been announced.

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