Water and Wastewater

Wastewater Permitting & Facility Improvement Project

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8/6/2018 Public Hearing Notice for 2018 Environmental Assessment

The City of Whitefish has hired a consulting team utilizing Anderson-Montgomery Consulting Engineers of Helena, in association with Robert Peccia & Associates of Kalispell, to assess the City's wastewater treatment plant and collection system.  The age and condition of the wastewater facilities in the City, as well as new regulatory treatment standards, provides the impetus for the technical assessment.  The City has over 58 miles of sewage main and 17 lift stations required to serve the homes and businesses found on the varied topography throughout the community.  The treatment system utilizes a lagoon-based technology that has been modified and upgraded several times over the last 40 years including the inclusion of a mechanical process to remove the nutrient phosphorous.  Both the wastewater collection facilities and the treatment plant will require improvements to make the system effective and capable of complying with new anticipated treatment standards.

Progress Report on Treatment Plant Upgrade

In January of this year, the City’s engineering consultants Anderson-Montgomery Consulting Engineers and Robert Peccia & Associates began the design of a major upgrade to the City’s wastewater treatment plant. Portions of the existing plant date back to the late 70’s and the facility is not capable of meeting current or anticipated new regulatory permit requirements. As a result, the Facilities Planning process completed in 2016 indicated that a new mechanical treatment plant, generally described as a Sequencing Batch Reactor (SBR), was the most cost-effective means of upgrading the City’s wastewater treatment facilities. This type of plant will produce a high quality discharge including the removal of much of the ammonia in the effluent, a significant lowering of the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous in the discharge and a reduced potential for odor generation. The plant is being designed to meet the standards set in the 2015 wastewater discharge permit issued to the City by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), including limits for total nitrogen and total phosphorous allowed through a general variance process established by the state. Estimated costs for the plant are $17.5 million dollars.

Changes in Nutrient Standards – Shortly after design began on the new plant, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality indicated that they were being required by the EPA to lower the nutrient limits for nitrogen and phosphorous allowed under the general variance process described in DEQ Circular 12B, Nutrient Standards Variances.  The DEQ revised the general variance limits to reflect the “Highest Achievable Condition” as suggested by a new Federal Rule, 40 CFR 131.14. The proposed treatment facilities under design for the City cannot meet the new HAC limits without substantial modification and addition of a new tertiary unit process. The additional improvements would add a cost of approximately $9.5 million dollars to the $17.5 estimated costs for the SBR plant to meet the current (2015) treatment standards.   

Individual Economic Variance – Recently adopted Montana law allows for the granting of individual nutrient standards variances based on the particular economic and financial situation in a community.  The City of Whitefish requested a variance from the more restrictive nutrient standards in the new DEQ rules based on a demonstration that the costs to meet the standards would have substantial and widespread adverse economic impacts. The DEQ has accepted the City’s request for a nutrient variance and has initiated rule-making to formalize the request. A public hearing on the variance will be held by the DEQ in Whitefish in mid-January. While a variance in the treatment standards may be granted by the regulatory agency, the performance of the new plant will still allow for significantly better water quality in the treated discharge sent to the Whitefish River. No adverse impacts to the Whitefish River or Flathead Lake are anticipated with the implementation of the new plant operating under the conditions of the variance. The new plant will be designed to conserve energy and reduce the use of chemicals.

 Wastewater System Improvements Project Final PER- 10/16

Project Schedule

Conceptual Site Plan

Equipment and Power Estimates


Drinking Water 

Annual Water Quality Reports