Idaho Department of Environmental Quality

The Department of Environmental Quality assists with Idaho water management and protection issues. DEQ classifies the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer as a sensitive resource aquifer under Idaho code IDAPA 58.01.11.

DEQ’s Northern Regional Administrator Dan McCracken confirms that the SVRP Aquifer absolutely needs protection from an excessive number of septic tanks. He says:

“The state law that incorporates the septic system rules for Panhandle Health District is in IDAPA Chapter 41. The purpose of the 1 dwelling per 5 acres on septic systems over the aquifer is to protect the aquifer from potential contamination from septic effluent. Septic systems rely on microorganisms in the soils to treat water as it infiltrates through soils in a drain field. The soils over the aquifer drain very quickly due to the amount of sand, gravel and cobble which make the aquifer more vulnerable to the density of drain fields. We use sewers and centralized wastewater treatment systems in areas over the aquifer that are developed to a higher density. City of Coeur d'Alene, City of Post Falls, and Hayden Area Regional Sewer Board are some of the larger sewer providers over the aquifer.”

Unfortunately, this excellent regulatory policy does not seem to pertain to the wells of the Greenferry Water and Sewer District. DEQ, like its contractor Panhandle Health District 1, insists upon using --for regulatory purposes-- the EPA’s outdated, 42-year old aquifer boundary created with limited data by the U. S. Geological Survey in the late 1970’s.

DEQ’s unwavering adherence to this outdated boundary puts Greensferry Stakeholders at high risk for a public health disaster because it inaccurately excludes areas south of the Spokane River including the Greenferry wells. DEQ officials insist that Greenferry water wells are NOT completed within the SVRP Aquifer, but within a “general resource aquifer.”

Therefore, DEQ signed off on 57 septic tanks and 57 drain fields for the 28 acres proposed for the Bayshore Estates Subdivision. In its July 2020 recommendation for subdivision approval, Community Development DEQ stated, “The Department of Environmental Quality did not cite any adverse impacts associated with the [Bayshore Estates] request.”

Later in 2020, DEQ finally acknowledged public concern and recommended that the Bayshore Estates developer conduct Nutrient-Pathogen Evaluation modeling studies of the Greenferry well area. DEQ is currently assessing the results of these studies.