Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Taking a stand for clean, safe water

Democrats on the Idaho Senate Health and Welfare Committee today raised objections to the majority votes on two Department of Environmental Quality rules on groundwater quality and sub-surface sewage disposal.

“Like all Idahoans, we want clean and safe water,” Senator Les Bock said. “The majority votes on these issues go against the Department of Environmental Quality’s charge to protect that precious resource."

On the groundwater safety rule, Bock and Senator Nicole LeFavour challenged how the rule revision allows mining companies a permanent exemption from state rules and standards protecting groundwater from contamination.

The Democrats expressed concerns that the rule does not provide a framework of how the operator or the DEQ will monitor the site in perpetuity. “The Idaho Legislature has entrusted DEQ with maintaining high-quality water supply, and we feel the new ground water rule does not provide adequate monitoring to ensure that safety for the public,” Bock said.

“It is very troubling to me that in this rule our state government is picking and choosing where it will enforce ground water quality laws and where it will not,” LeFavour added. “It’s also troubling that we set a precedent that allows economic considerations to trump the need to protect Idaho's clean drinking water for families and our children.”

The committee also voted to reject a pending rule on sub-surface sewage disposal, while Bock and LeFavour voted to uphold that rule, which revised the method for determining wastewater flow and capacity for the design, installation and use of septic tanks at residential structures.

DEQ proposed the rule to address an existing condition where wastewater is seeping into lakes and streams below substandard septic systems that were approved under previous DEQ rules. The rule was to address the health risks and remediation costs to taxpayers associated with fecal contamination of Idaho lakes, streams and groundwater.

“Developers and homeowners have been using creative ways to get around the intent of the law by designating bedroom spaces to non-bedroom spaces,” LeFavour said. “Again, DEQ is trusted with maintaining our state’s water quality. This new rule was designed to do that, and public comment before the ruling found that these changes were both reasonable and in the best interest of public health. We are disappointed that our colleagues on the Health and Welfare Committee did not agree.”