For more than 10 years, Bill Myers has been watching a plume of filth that drains directly from Lake Avenue pour into Bigfork Bay right next to his property in Bigfork.
“It’s muddy, it’s disgusting, it’s eroding the shoreline, it’s dumping pollution into the bay,” he says. “It’s not a big mystery; it’s been going on a long time.”
Myers wasn’t the only one who had noticed the plume, which drains from a storm water pipe right next to the bay’s public dock. A study by the University of Montana Biological Research Station at Yellow Bay in 1996 showed that water pouring out there contained fecal bacteria, petroleum byproducts from cars, antifreeze and other pollutants.
Over the years, Myers has called Flathead County commissioners and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to complain about the plume.
Three years ago, he called County Commissioner Joe Brenneman, who says he’s wanted to fix the problem ever since. The trouble, says Brenneman, is that there are no available records that describe Bigfork’s storm water system, which is thought to be more than 50 years old. It’s not possible to fix things unless someone knows what’s broken—and where, he notes.
But Brenneman saw a solution last year, when the county hired a grant writer, Debbie Pierson, who was able to secure $15,000 from the DEQ to begin tackling the issue. The county has since created a Bigfork Storm Water Advisory Board, which has begun meeting to solve the problems. A preliminary report on the storm water system is expected to be complete on April 23.
From there, says Pierson, it will be a matter of raising money to revamp the system.
Myers says he’s glad there’s finally something happening, although he’s frustrated at the wait. “We knew there was a problem—it’s existed for years,” he says. “My hope would have been that they would have done the project already.”