Driggs dodges sewage bullet, but will still pay $13,500 for pollution violations

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The EPA is prepared to strike a deal with the City of Driggs regarding violations at its new wastewater treatment plant. | Jeannette Boner, Teton Valley News

DRIGGS — The city has been in negotiations with the Environmental Protection Agency for almost a year seeking to solve the numerous pollution violations found at the wastewater treatment plant. Today the EPA called for public comment regarding the Consent Agreement and Final Order with the city.

Mayor Hyrum Johnson revealed to the Teton Valley News Thursday that if the EPA had “thrown the book at Driggs,” the penalty could have been as high as $250 million.

The penalty that the city and the EPA agreed upon is $13,500.

“Frankly, I’m ecstatic,” Johnson said. “[The EPA] specifically said, when they submitted that number, ‘you guys have worked hard, you’ve demonstrated the desire to comply, you have cooperated with us every step of the way, you have not tried to obstruct us, so we have reduced this penalty to the absolute bare minimum that we are able to get to.”

The city has a two-year period from the final consent agreement to bring the plant into full compliance. The mayor said he was confident that the public works department could fulfill that task in under two years.

The city installed a new $10 million plant in 2013 in hopes of addressing historic clean water act violations, but the problems weren’t solved. The majority of the plant’s 135 violations revealed in EPA testing were for ammonia being discharged into a tributary of the Teton River. The new system uses bacteria to digest the contaminants in wastewater but apparently, “the bugs that are supposed to break down ammonia haven’t taken hold,” Johnson said.

The city worked with an EPA team out of Seattle and Johnson said that it was possibly the best federal experience he has ever had.

“I felt like they were our partners in this effort,” he said. “It didn’t feel like it was overreach by a federal bureaucracy.”

The EPA will be accepting comments through Dec. 30. Visit https://www.epa.gov/publicnotices/proposed-settlement-city-driggs-clean-water-act-violations for directions on submitting comments.

This article was originally published in the Teton Valley News. It is used here with permission.

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