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Study Finds Unfiltered Storm Drains Polluting Missoula Rivers

Clark Fork River
Photo courtesy of Jon King

A storm water drain near Caras Park has been pouring a variety of pollutants into the Clark Fork River a new study shows. Missoula Water Quality District Supervisor Peter Nielsen described what they found.

“It’s about really visible things like thousands and thousands of cigarette butts, trash, and other debris,” Nielsen said. “The other stuff that you can’t see are the contaminants, the lead, the copper, the arsenic; Everything that comes off your vehicle goes into the river.”

Similar pollutants were found at another storm drain near where Highway 93 crosses the Bitterroot River. Nielsen says the solution to the problem is a device called a hydro-dynamic separator.

“It’s a device where the water is basically focused and swirled around at high velocity than the contaminants that are attached to those settle out into a basin below,” Nielsen said. “The water moves on through and discharges to the river. The second phase would be infiltration of the discharge through the soil.”

The cost of the first step of the project is an estimated $196,000. Today, the Missoula Water quality district will submit a request for a state grant that could cover the majority of that cost

 Peter Nielsen:

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