Tester Seeks Permanent Fix to Transboundary Water Pollution

Senator: “We need leadership” to solve this issue

In response to a steady flow of pollution from Canadian mines to waterways in Northwest Montana, U.S. Senator Jon Tester this week called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of State to work together and identify a path forward to fix the transboundary water issue and protect the Kootenai River watershed.

Tester wrote to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, asking them to identify and implement additional monitoring to fully understand the scope of the contamination, and to work with Canada to halt the flow of pollution across the border.

“I urge you to work together to finalize and publicly release a report identifying what additional monitoring is necessary to understand the scope of contamination in this watershed, and the best path forward to coming to a thorough and timely agreement with your Canadian counterparts to stop transboundary pollution in this watershed,” Tester wrote “… As new mining activities are considered north of the border, we do not have the luxury of assuming selenium and other possible contaminants are not affecting waterways in the U.S. I stand ready to work with you to understand the threats to water quality in the Kootenai River watershed, and to protect that water.”

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has continually found increased levels of contamination, including selenium, nitrates, sedimentation, and other impairments associated with Canadian coal mining in the watershed, and just last month researchers at the EPA and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) found high levels of selenium in mountain whitefish eggs.

Tester has long advocated for a fix to halt the flow of pollution into American waters. Earlier this summer he joined a bipartisan group of colleagues in calling on Canadian officials to implement tougher regulations for rivers that originate in Canada and flow into the U.S., noting that communities in Northwest Montana depend on clean, healthy water to survive.

As part of the 2020 Interior Appropriations Bill, Tester secured $1.5 million for USGS streamgages to monitor transboundary watersheds and continuing support for monitoring at Lake Koocanusca, the transboundary reservoir in the Kootenai watershed. Tester also secured language directing EPA and State Department to provide a report to the Committee on remaining data gaps for the watershed.

Read the full letter HERE.