For the Public Record:
Documented Facts
About the Threat to Greenferry Water



The picture above shows the wellheads of the two shallow wells managed by the Greenferry Water and Sewer District (GWSD) in Kootenai County, Idaho. Integral to a regulated community drinking water system and compliant with Idaho Rules for Public Drinking Water Systems, these wells lie only 300 hundred feet south of the Spokane River, bordering the city of Post Falls. Currently, 400 Greenferry water hookups accommodate about 1000 customers. 

The Greenferry Water and Sewer District is planning to drill a third well in the same area as the two existing wells. Before inflation got out of hand, the new well system was estimated to cost about one million dollars. A third well would provide additional underserved firefighting flow and allow new customer hookups.


In the above photo we can see the Greenferry wells marked in a red circle to the Northeast of the proposed subdivision acreage lying inside of the green line. The superimposed dots in the proposed subdivision area mark the location of 57 Bayshore Estates residential lots, each of which would require a septic tank and a 400 square-foot drain field. There is no public sewer system available in the area so the 57 drain fields would scuttle their toxic effluent downward into a shallow ground water trough measuring 1500 feet north/south by 800 feet east/west.

The fine sand and gravely silt loam of the northern portion of the proposed subdivision acreage is documented to be “well-drained.” Its capacity to transmit water is “moderately high” at up to 2 inches per hour (four feet in 24 hours). The top of the water table here is approximately 170 feet below the ground surface. [1]

The extremely permeable sandy loam of the southern portion of the acreage is even more “excessively drained.” Its capacity to transmit water is “high” with its most limiting layer able to percolate water at up to 6 inches per hour (12 feet in 24 hours). Due to underground gradient sloping, the top of the water table underlying this area of the subdivision acreage is calculated at only 125 feet below the ground surface. [2]

As bad luck would have it, groundwater under the proposed Bayshore Estates subdivision flows from the south to the north i.e., towards the Greenferry wells. [3] Cedar Creek drainage from Blossom Mountain to the south feeds into this reservoir, forcing water pressure under the proposed subdivision towards the Spokane River. In addition, the Greenferry wells create a powerful vortex that sucks underground water towards the pumps.

Two test wells were drilled at the north end of the proposed subdivision acreage in 2021. These test wells responded to pumping of the Greenferry wells lying within 450-550 feet of the test wells. [4] This visceral interaction is momentous because the test wells were dug precisely where clusters of septic drain fields are to be planted if the subdivision is approved.

Older residential areas (established decades ago) lie mostly to the north and east of the Greenferry wells. Surface water and septic/drain field residues from these areas percolate down into ground water. But underground water flow is to the north towards the river, mostly sparing the Greenferry wells at this time, it would seem.

The  Mucky New Threat Faced by
Greenferry Water Drinkers


Each proposed Bayshore Estates septic tank/drain field system to be embedded in highly permeable soil above the shallow water table that feeds Greenferry wells is considered to be an injection well. [5]

Passing through each of 57 new Bayshore Estates “injection wells” would be approximately 300 gallons per day of water laden with untreated sewage and household chemicals.[6] Only sediment would remain in the tanks for future removal. The untreated tank water would be constantly discharged into drain fields lying about 5 feet down within the fast-draining sands and gravels. It is an established fact that most surface effluent, including precipitation, irrigation water and drain field effluent will seep downward into the water table that feeds the Greenferry wells.

Over the course of each year, the 57 injection wells would produce a cumulative 6,241,500 gallons of septic tank effluent. That discharged waste water would be measured at 45 milligrams of nitrates per liter (45mg/l), an extremely high dose not safe for drinking water. [7] 

Nitrates are nitrogen molecules, a natural by-product of human and animal manure. They are avoided in drinking water because they can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, confusion, coma and convulsions, headaches, hypotension, fainting, methaemoglobinaemia, cancer, diabetes and dementia. Nitrate pollution cannot be boiled or chlorinated out of drinking water and it is very expensive to mitigate. Nitrates easily combine with chemical components to create the even more deadly and carcinogenic nitrites. [8]

EPA has set a maximum contaminant level (MCL) in drinking water for nitrates at 10 parts per million (ppm) (10 mg/L). [9] Greenferry well water currently tests for nitrates at slightly below 1 mg/L, and so does the ground water under the proposed subdivision acreage, as evaluated in 2021. [10]

In addition to highly toxic nitrates and nitrites, the 57 proposed Bayshore Estates injection wells would be loaded with a variety of noxious household detergents, other chemicals and human pathogens that qualify as an extreme biohazard in the age of COVID-19. [11] Although COVID is reportedly a virus, researchers have discovered that it routinely infects bacteria. This means that COVID is a bacterophage and it can weaponize common bacteria found in septage. [12]

  Surface Pollution Eventually Recharges Ground Water

People who depend on Greenferry well water know that dumping millions of annual gallons of septic effluent rated at 45 milligrams of nitrates per liter above a shallow aquifer water table has serious ramifications. According to Idaho State ground water flow model data provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, the transit time of surface water, including septage pollution, traveling from the land surface to a water table 170 deep is under two months. Travel time of surface water and drain field effluent to a water table 125 feet deep is calculated to be only about one month. [13]  

This surface water seeping into the water table endlessly recharges the groundwater. Recharge is defined as water added to the aquifer through the unsaturated zone by infiltration and percolation following precipitation events. Eighty-five percent of precipitation becomes deep percolation that contributes to recharge, with the most deep percolation occurring in the months of December and January. [14] USGS data confirms that in the Greenferry well area, we can expect an average volumetric recharge of about 10 inches of surface water, including drain field pollution, to be added to the entire water table underlying the subdivision acreage per each year. [15]

For the last 30 years, official documentation has accumulated showing that GWSD wells are rooted in the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer (SVRP Aquifer). Here is a 2020 warning from the website of the Spokane County Department of Environmental Services:

“Several water quality studies have been conducted over the last 25 years. Results of these studies prove conclusively that there was degradation of the Spokane area's drinking water in unsewered areas. The major source of this pollution came from the daily disposal of several million gallons of wastewater directly into the aquifer from on-site sewage disposal systems, i.e., septic systems, cesspools and treatment plants.”[16]

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, in cooperation with the Panhandle Health District 1, has published many documents confirming the urgency of protecting SVRP Aquifer water from septic pollution. One of these documents notes that high levels of nitrates in the Aquifer have long been a problem underneath or down gradient from areas with intense housing growth and subsurface sewage disposal systems.  It warns:

“Geohydrologic analysis of the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer indicates high porosities, permeability's and transmissivities. Groundwater flow is calculated in some places to be in excess of 50 feet/day…. Soils developed over the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer are well drained to excessively well drained [exactly like the Greenferry well area.]  The absence of major restrictive layers in the unsaturated zone results in high potential for contamination from surface activities. Water quality testing has linked nitrate contamination of the aquifer with high usage of subsurface sewage disposal systems….It has already been shown that nitrates from septic systems are leaching into the aquifer….Nitrate is extremely stable, soluble in water and extremely mobile.” [17]

It’s All About the SVRP Aquifer

In the complex world of Idaho State and Kootenai County regulatory processes, the perpetual dumping of nasty effluent from cluster septic systems into sandy soil above the Greenferry public water supply apparently matters only if that water supply is officially considered to be part of the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer.

Since December 1977, Idaho State law (IDAPA 41.01.01) mandates only one septic tank per five acres in SVRP Aquifer zones where there is no sewage treatment facility available. This law is commonly called the Five-acre Rule. The rule actually pre-dates the sole source designation of the SVRP Aquifer by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In 1978 the EPA published its sole source aquifer designation for the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie. That EPA Notice of Intent calls for special care of the SVRP Aquifer and it mandates focused management of sewage wastewater. The SVRP Aquifer boundary map produced for this Notice established the southern SVRP Aquifer boundary as conveniently lying on the easy-to-define north edge of the Spokane River. This administrative boundary line, established 44-year years ago with “limited hydrogeological data,” [18] has never been legally modified through legislative rule-making.

By 1992, as both Idaho and Washington regulators doubled down to study and safeguard the SVRP Aquifer, much additional hydrogeological data had accumulated. The SVRP Aquifer boundary began to take on new parameters in official documents published by both states. That year, the Department of Environmental Quality (Coeur d’ Alene Region), and Panhandle Health District 1 cooperated with the Spokane County Water Management Program to produce an informational flyer showing SVRP Aquifer boundary evolution. These agencies used federal funding to produce and circulate this informational flyer.

The flyer includes the map below showing that the Greenferry Water and Sewer District area south of the Spokane River lies inside of the SVRP Aquifer boundary.


You can see a dotted line delineating the southern boundary of the SVRP Aquifer. The arrow points to the little pucker of land south of the Spokane River that contains the Greenferry wells and the proposed Bayshore Estates Subdivision area.  Notice that there is also quite a sizeable amount of land to the east within the dotted line south of the river. 

Now look below to confirm that this SVRP Aquifer boundary map published thirty years ago was credited to both the Idaho DEQ and Panhandle Health, Northern Region. Note that funding for the map is provided by none other than the EPA which had established the old 1978 boundary line.


In 2001, Idaho DEQ conducted an assessment report on Greenferry well number one (well number two was to be drilled later that year). The report stated that the operating well was “pumping from the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer.” It stated that evaluation points were marked against the well because “both the casing and the seal terminate in porous material typical of the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer.” It stated that the well scored six out of six points possible for hydrologic sensitivity because soils that drain rapidly are less protective of ground water and therefore, the well is “moderately susceptible to all classes of contaminants, mostly because of natural risk factors associated with the geology of the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer.” The report also stated that septic systems “are a significant potential contaminant source” for Greenferry water. [19]

Later in 2005, the U. S. Geological Survey, the premier mapping agency of the federal government, completed a detailed hydrogeological investigation of the SVRP Aquifer, which included an update to the aquifer boundary. This investigation extended the aquifer boundary to include numerous areas south of the Spokane River, including the Greenferry wells. The updated USGS boundary is identified by the green line on the above aerial picture of the Bayshore Estates Subdivision acreage, as compared to the blue line which is the outdated 1978 EPA boundary line along the northern shore of the Spokane River. [20] The green line boundary delineates the same pucker seen on the 1992 DEQ/Panhandle Health flyer.

In addition, the most updated hydrogeological information now available from the Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR) shows that the Greenferry wells are completed in sandy soil within the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer.   A 2020 letter from IDWR hydrogeologist Daniel Sturgis states:  In Idaho, the SVRP Aquifer is composed of primarily sands and gravels related to the outburst flood from Glacial Lake Missoula. Wells logs on record for the Greenferry system show their wells are completed in sands and gravels…. The 2005 USGS investigation extended the aquifer boundary to include areas south of the Spokane River, including the Greenferry wells. The IDWR is in the process of completing an updated investigation of the SVRP Aquifer boundary. This investigation also finds the Greenferry wells to be completed in the SVRP Aquifer.” [21]


 Greenferry Water Drinkers (Stakeholders)
Are Greatly Alarmed


Seen above are two children who obtain their drinking water from GWSD wells rooted in the SVRP Aquifer. They are holding a stream of flagging approximately 125 feet long. The distance between the children represents the meager depth of sandy, fast draining sands and gravels that lie above the top of the shallow water table at the southern portion of the proposed Bayshore Estates Subdivision acreage. We can see from this visual why fast-moving effluent from numerous septic systems could quickly infiltrate the water table that feeds the adjacent Greenferry wells.  

In 2021, studies of the GWSD wells conducted by IDWR revealed that the water table in the Greenferry well area actually rises in the summer due to spring runoff. In July 2021, the water level rose by 17 feet, a phenomenon which, according to IDWR hydrogeologist Daniel Sturgis, can be expected every summer. [22] This would indicate that in July 2021, the water table at the south end of the proposed subdivision acreage was approximately 108 feet below the surface exactly where new cluster drain fields are to be congregated for Bayshore Estates. The year 2021 was a period of extreme drought. In a year with normal or above average precipitation, the summer water table could perhaps rise even higher than 17 feet.

A rising water table level in summer obviously reduces the transit time of down-draining surface effluent. And this rising water level occurs at a seasonal time when people use millions of gallons of irrigation water on their lawns and gardens. Like precipitation, irrigation water helps carry drain field effluent, lawn chemicals/pesticides and road toxins downward into the water table below.  

Stakeholders Have Been Ignored for Years

In 2018, the developer of the proposed Bayshore Estates Subdivision applied to Kootenai County for an extension to his Conditional Zoning Development Agreement allowing two houses per acre. The Greenferry water community was acutely aware of the septage threat to Greenferry wells, so many people submitted petitions plus written and oral testimony to regulators and Kootenai County officials. [23] These passionate pleas for more rational planning fell on deaf ears.

In July 2020, Kootenai County Community Development recommended preliminary approval of the Bayshore Estates Subdivision with 57 residential lots. This was despite many new petitions and public statements reflecting continued community fears about water degradation. The recommendation quickly moved to the Kootenai County Board of Commissioners for final approval.

Once again, hundreds of people dependent upon Greenferry water urgently petitioned the commissioners to require that the Bayshore Estates development group either sewer the subdivision or abide by the Five-acre Rule. Stakeholders also requested that the commissioners grant a special hearing on the subject and the Greenferry issue made local newspaper coverage.

Fortunately, the commissioners did grant a special public hearing to be held on Sept 10, 2020. However, that hearing was remanded (delayed) when the commissioners received confirmation that DEQ had recommended--and the Greenferry Water and Sewer District Board had requested-- that the Bayshore Estates developer conduct a Nutrient Pathogen Evaluation in order to determine whether the Bayshore Estates project would indeed constitute a public health threat to Greenferry water. 

By Oct 30, the Bayshore Estates developer completed a Level 1 Nutrient-Pathogen evaluation (NPE) which produced only simplified and incomplete assumptions. In November, DEQ opted to require that the developer continue on with a more detailed Level Two NPE to include test wells.  DEQ Remediation Manager Gary Stevens informed the Department of Community Development: “Given the proposed Bayshore Estates lot sizes are approximately ½ acre and the subsurface conditions appear to consist of coarse-grained sediment that would allow the rapid transport of contaminants to the underlying aquifer, there is an increased potential for ground water quality impacts and the site would not meet the acceptable conditions for a Level 1.” [24]

Also in November, during the reprieve granted by pending studies, Stakeholders went on the offensive. Idaho law, specifically the Ground Water Quality Rule, provides remedy for threatening situations like that faced by the GWSD. Stakeholders submitted a detailed petition to the State of Idaho, asking the Idaho Board of Environmental Quality to officially recategorize the aquifer underlying the Greenferry wells and surrounding area as a sensitive resource aquifer at risk. Stakeholders presented the Board with documentation showing that the water source feeding Greenferry wells have long been confirmed by various agencies to lie within the southernmost SVRP Aquifer boundary.

Regulators Close Ranks to Block the
Petition for Recategorization

During a Zoom meeting with the Board of Environmental Quality in February 2021, the Stakeholder petition was rejected by the Board. This was upon recommendation of Boise DEQ officials who warned that if petitioners were to be granted aquifer recategorization status, the entire SVRP Aquifer boundary across two states would have to be officially reconfigured. DEQ also warned that a recategorization effort could take years to thread through various channels of government, including the Idaho legislature. [25]

DEQ made it clear that even if the State of Idaho were to officially recategorize the Greenferry well area as part of a vulnerable water resource, only officials at the Panhandle Health District can grant the Greenferry wells protection under the Five-acre Rule. [26] Stakeholders find this very peculiar since the 5-acre Rule is applied under Idaho State law.



Panhandle Health District policies are governed by a Board of Health appointed by county commissioners of five northern Idaho counties. Unfortunately, a group of unelected officials at Panhandle Health District 1 in Kootenai County have stated that they are unwilling to grant the Greenferry water community equal rights under the Five-acre Rule as enforced by Idaho State law for all other SVRP Aquifer water systems since December 1977. They claim that Idaho law irrevocably binds them  to the ancient and obsolete 1978 EPA boundary that excludes Greenferry water.

Erik Ketner, environmental health section manager for Panhandle Health, told Kootenai County in 2020 that PHD recognizes that current information supports the SVRP Aquifer extending into the Bayshore Estates Subdivision area, but that rulemaking and legislative approval would be necessary to amend the current boundary. [27] Ironically, an earlier generation of Panhandle Health officials were not so bound, when in 1992 they used EPA funds to circulate the above referenced SVRP Aquifer flyer showing the Greenferry well area as part of the SVRP Aquifer protection zone. Of course, this contradictory situation now leads to much public confusion and anguish.

Regulators who insist that the 1978 boundary line excludes the Greenferry wells claim that the GWSD wells draw from a general resource aquifer. [28] Therefore, according to their reckoning, Greenferry water is a source less worthy of protection from septage pollution than ground water derived north of the Spokane River. However, the State of Idaho Ground Water Quality Rule clearly provides the possibility of recategorization protection for even lowly general resource aquifers. The Rule states that when a petition to recategorize a portion of a general resource aquifer is submitted to the Board of Environmental Quality, the proper criteria is that the aquifer is used for drinking water and is in danger of activity that would degrade ground water quality. [29] This was mentioned in Stakeholders’ petition to the state, but it was ignored by the Board of Environmental Quality.

Just before Stakeholders met with the Board of Environmental Quality to discuss the petition for recategorization of the aquifer at risk, IDWR officials ran for cover. They sent a letter to DEQ stating that current IDWR boundary studies are part of an investigation intended only for discussion and informational purposes. They reported that IDWR is not currently pursuing an update to the 2002 ground water management boundary (defined by the Spokane River). They stated that IDWR must complete its current evaluations, then form an advisory committee that could decide to propose boundary alterations. [30] This slow-motion fiddle faddle will undoubtedly take years.

Naturally, the IDWR letter provided further discouragement to the Board of Environmental Quality in regards to Stakeholder request for recategorization. This concerted determination by multiple agencies to block recategorization seems a blatant contradiction of the Ground Water Quality Rule which states: “It is the policy of the State of Idaho to maintain and protect the existing high quality of the State’s ground water.”

The Greenferry Water and Sewer District
Board Is Under Pressure

Under duress from the Bayshore Estates development group to provide water for the proposed subdivision, the GWSD Board has long expressed serious concern about pollution from the large number of septic systems required for the subdivision.

When the Bayshore Estates developer submitted his 2018 rezone extension request to the county, GWSD manager John Austin wrote a series of three letters referencing the Board’s concern that well water contamination might occur from high-density septic tank introduction. [31]

In 2020, GWSD Board Chairman Steve Tanner stated in a letter to the Kootenai County commissioners that the water table under the proposed 57-home subdivision is completed in an alluvial fan at the mouth of Cedar Creek where it joins the Spokane River. He said that this situation provides a significant hydrodynamic head which can drive groundwater and contaminants towards the Greenferry wells. He also stated that as the District acquires additional water rights to increase capacity of its wells, accelerated pumping might potentially draw septic contaminants into the wells. [32]  

On January 5, 2021, the GWSD Board submitted a letter to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, stating that the Board wanted to go on record as supporting the Stakeholder petition for recategorization and it stated that the Board “is very concerned about protecting the groundwater and its wells from further degradation as a result of development in the District.”  The letter stated that the Board would like its wells afforded the same protection as wells located a few hundred yards to the north (of the Spokane River). It concluded that there is ample evidence that recategorization of the Aquifer is justified and appropriate. [33]   




The Confined Aquifer Controversy

During Stakeholders’ meeting with the Board of Environmental Quality, DEQ officials lectured the Board with a video on confined aquifers versus unconfined aquifers like the SVRP Aquifer. A confined aquifer has a rock or soil layer lying above the water table that is less permeable and therefore somewhat protective against infiltration of surface pollutants. 

DEQ Boise officials told the Board that it is possible that the Greenferry wells may be drilled into a confined aquifer since the static water level in the well pipes is higher than the water table below. This assertion was apparently made to convince the Board that 57 septic systems “bleeding” into a general resource aquifer beneath the  Bayshore Estates acreage would be safer than Stakeholders fear. However, Stakeholders later discovered from numerous well logs that many wells completed in the unconfined SVRP Aquifer north of the river also have high static water levels in their well casings.

DEQ later took the liberty to pinpoint for Stakeholders a 40-foot layer of gravel which might be construed as a confining layer. That layer, as notated in one of the Greenferry well logs, lies at 123 feet to 160 feet below ground surface, just above the water table accessed by that well. [34] However, even if that layer of gravel were to be less permeable than upper layers, it is useless as a confining layer under the 28 subdivision acres to the south. Why?  Because the top of the water table on the south end of the subdivision acreage is calculated to lie only 125 feet beneath the ground surface, which is higher than the supposed confining gravel band above the deeper ground water table in the Greenferry well area.

In order to be somewhat protective, a confining layer would have to be uniform across the entire subdivision acreage, which is highly unlikely since the water table slants downwards from the south towards the north, leaving gravel and rock layers to vary as the earth descends towards the Greenferry wells. The engineer who completed the Level 2 NPE study did not use confining metrics in his computer modeling. He admitted that if confining layers do exist under the subdivision acreage, there are no studies to describe how such layers permit leakage into the water table. [35] This information is mentioned here to illustrate that DEQ’s confined aquifer hypothesis for the Greenferry situation does not hold water.

Should a Developer-financed Study
Condemn Greenferry Wells?

On September 3, 2021 the Bayshore Estates development group submitted to DEQ its required Level Two Nutrient Pathogen Evaluation. [36] The study was funded by the developer. The engineer he selected to complete the study reportedly had never completed  NPE modeling studies prior to the Bayshore Estates project.  

1. The Level 2 NPE report states that the Greenferry wells and the proposed subdivision acreage do not lie over the SVRP Aquifer and it confirms that calculations for the Greenferry well area are therefore different than those used for modeling SVRP Aquifer areas. [37]

2. The study concludes with an “opinion” that the proposed Bayshore Estates septic systems, producing approximately 17,100 gallons of untreated wastewater per day, will not exceed DEQ’s allowed 1.0 mg/L increase of nitrate pollution within the water table at the compliance boundary of the proposed subdivision.

3. The study concludes that sediments appear to be sufficiently deep for adequate dispersion of septic effluent volume.

4.  The study contains no pathogen transport studies because DEQ states in its Nutrient-Pathogen Evaluation guidelines that such studies “cannot be done with enough certainty to be useful.” [38]

5.  The NPE concludes with this disclaimer: “No warranty, either expressed or implied, is offered, made, or intended…. Our professional opinions and recommendations are based on limited observations and information, and may depend on, and be qualified by, information gathered previously by others….Property activities and governmental regulations beyond our control could change at any time after the completion of our site work. Therefore, the findings, conclusions, opinions and/or recommendations presented in the Report are valid only as of the date of the observations or information upon which they are based [September 3, 2021]. Even the most rigorous of professional assessments may fail to identify all existing conditions.” [39]

With the health of 1000 water drinkers (and many others in the future) at stake, Stakeholders feel uncomfortable with “opinions” and  “modeled predictions” that expired on September 3, 2021.  They also have an overwhelming disinterest in a study which predicts negligible negative effects from millions of gallons of drain field water leaching into the aquifer for the next 50 years. After all, this “negative effect” determination places in question the Five-acre Rule enforced by Panhandle Health since 1977 across the entire region-wide SVRP Aquifer protection zone.

In addition, Eric Ketner at Panhandle Health has admitted to Stakeholders that no community over the SVRP Aquifer could legally place cluster septic tanks over the sole source aquifer by simply passing an NPE. [40] 


 On October 7, 2021, DEQ sent to the Bayshore Estates development group a two-page letter with technical comments and questions on the Level 2 NPE submission of September 3. [41] This letter from DEQ’s Gary Stevens suggests that this Level 2 NPE is deficient and/or incorrect on many levels. Discussion offered by Stevens confirms that the Greenferry water table could indeed be at risk from “introduction of drain field effluent” and from “contaminant plumes.” He also affirms interaction between test wells in the subdivision area and Greenferry wells: “The entire recovery test was affected by withdrawal from the pump well and the Greenferry water wells and appears to violate the singular pump well and the constant pump rate assumptions [made by the engineer].”

DEQ’s Response to the Bayshore Engineer’s Level 2 NPE



These DEQ letters illustrate how close the Greenferry water community came, in 2020, to a bureaucratic rubber-stamping of a public health disaster. When the Department of Community Development recommended approval for the Bayshore Estates Subdivision that year, planners, regulators and commissioners had virtually no concept of the numerous crucial and technical issues outlined by these hard-won DEQ documents. Intuitive people coming together in a great outcry are the reason why the regulatory complex is now forced to confront this real and grave situation on a technical basis.

Is Science Dependent Upon a Line in the Sand?

Of special interest to Greenferry Stakeholders is a 2016 DEQ study by Gary Stevens, which evaluated the potential for ground water contamination by petroleum products transported or stored over the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer. [42]

That study concludes that serious SVRP Aquifer contamination would result from a subsurface pipeline leaking a small amount (50 gallons per day) of petroleum hydrocarbons over an extended period of time. The report shows that this toxic material would saturate subsurface materials in an area meters wide, create elevated vertical hydraulic conductivities and result in rapid downward migration into the underlying aquifer.

Millions of annual gallons of septage from 57 drain fields inoculating the Greenferry water table with dangerous elements may have a different type of hydraulic head than petroleum hydrocarbons.  But the end result is ultimately the same: vertical hydraulic conductivity and ultimate water pollution.

The DEQ report postulates that the downward migration of petroleum hydrocarbons would progress at about one foot per day, requiring about 200 days to reach the SVRP Aquifer water table at 200 feet under the ground surface.   The Bayshore Estates Level 2 NPE modeling shows a vertical hydraulic conductivity (downward thrust) of 2 feet per day calculated for surface drainage, which is twice the speed of movement ascribed to leaking hydrocarbon pollution in the 2016 Stevens study.

Should hydrocarbons be considered more pernicious than pathogen-infested wastewater? If the NPE concludes that six million annual gallons of nitrate-contaminated septage would be diluted before it passes through Greenferry wells why would DEQ worry about a mere 18,250 annual gallons of petro hydrocarbon pollution?  Would not that pollution also be sufficiently diluted were it held to the same metric standards as that used for septage draining into the Greenferry water table?

More questions from Stakeholders are these:

1. Can mucky wastewater, measured at 45 mg/l, seeping perpetually from 57 drain fields downward through fast-draining gravels, be cleansed of its nitrates, household chemicals and pathogens in only 30 to 60 days of transit time when DEQ warns that fast-draining sands and gravels over shallow water tables do not provide a sufficient filter for these pollutants? [44]

2. How can a mere mathematical modeling study convince water drinkers that perpetual millions of gallons of septage draining into acreage adjacent to their wells will leave ground water pure as baby’s breath when for decades, regulators in both Idaho and Washington have documented extreme pollution in waters down-gradient from areas where subsurface sewage disposal systems were used exclusively? [45]

3. Since the Level 2 NPE offers zero information on pathogen levels to be expected in the Greenferry water table from 57 new sewage injection wells, and since  virus levels are not routinely tested in public well water, can Greenferry water drinkers feel comfortable drinking “contaminant plumes” that may pass through their wells during a during a long-term viral pandemic?

Greenferry Stakeholders Suffer
Dangerous Regulatory Discrimination

The contentious SVRP boundary argument is of supreme importance to the health and happiness of current Greenferry water drinkers and also of 57 potential Bayshore Estates parcel buyers (2.5 persons per household).  

Hair-splitters at Panhandle Health and DEQ dicker and bicker that the 2005 USGS Aquifer boundary, protective of Greenferry wells, is not “administrative.”  IDWR officials say that their recent hydrogeological studies confirm accuracy of the 2005 boundary, but they haven’t finished their paperwork.  Meantime, Stakeholders care only about what matters: the public health first.

In 2021, Kootenai Electric Cooperative announced in its monthly newsletter that it was working to service over 54 new high-density subdivisions mostly north of Interstate 90, which places most if not all of them over the SVRP Aquifer. [46] Every one of these new developments is sewered, per state law.

Despite past regulatory mistakes and errors of judgment, given all of the information outlined at this Stakeholder website, county and state regulators have a moral obligation to demand that the Bayshore Estates developer likewise conform to the same reasonable regulations that currently protect all other SVRP Aquifer communities.

Idaho has the right to manage its own resources and Idaho law gives county regulators the authority to put the safety of drinking water ahead of all other concerns. This is why Kootenai County officials are now placing the 5-acre Rule into County Code while emphasizing in an emergency ordinance how vital and important this rule is to the protection of Aquifer drinking water.

The Idaho Administrative Procedures Act Chapter 41 states in Title 1, Chapter 01.000.01: “Nothing in this Code [Idaho law] shall be deemed to conflict with the enactment of any ordinance or rule placing additional restrictions or limitations which contribute to enhancement of water, air, land or health quality.”

Therefore, Kootenai County, which regulates Panhandle Health District 1, can and should legally inform that agency that it may no longer use EPA’s obsolete SVRP Aquifer boundary line of 1978  (along with the verbiage of IDAPA to endanger --with cluster septic tanks-- the drinking water wells of the Greenferry Water and Sewer District. This is especially true because the obsolete 1978 boundary was originally drawn by the U.S. Geological Survey, the very same federal agency which in 2005 updated that boundary to show that the Bayshore Estates acreage and Greenferry wells lie astride the SVRP Aquifer.  

In 2022, as the battle for safe drinking water comes to a head in the Greenferry matter, will the Idaho regulatory establishment, along with county officials, ultimately appease the ire of an aggressive developer, ignore Idaho statutory guarantees of safe public drinking water and deprive an entire community of the lawful water protection it deserves?  

If so, what will the Greenferry Water and Sewer District Board ultimately make of that situation? 

Stay tuned for further developments.



1. Level 2 Nutrient Pathogen Study, Project LCE-2021-002, Inland Earth Sciences,   September 3, 2021, pp. 2-3 and p. 11. 

2.  Ibid.

3.  Ibid., p. 5.

4.  Ibid., p. 9.

5.  Ibid., Figure 15.

6.  Ibid., pp. 11-12.

7.  Ibid., p. 13.

8.  “Nitrate and Drinking Water from Private Wells,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

9. “What are U.S. Standards and Regulations for Nitrates and Nitrites Exposure?” Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 2017.

10. Level 2 Nutrient Pathogen Study, Project LCE-2021-002, Inland Earth Sciences,   September 3, 2021, p. 8.

11. “CDA Wastewater Testing for COVID Shows Infected People in the Community,” CDA Press, June 10, 2020.

12. “Increase of SARS-CoV-2 RNA Load in Faecal Samples Prompts for Rethinking of SARS-CoV-2 biology and COVID-19 Epidemiology,” Petrillo it al., Pub Med, May 11, 2020.

13. Ground Water Flow Model for the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer, Spokane County, Washington and Bonner and Kootenai Counties, Idaho, U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Geological Survey, Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5044, Prepared  in Cooperation With the Idaho Department of Water Resources, Washington State Department of Ecology, University of Idaho and Washington State University, page 15.

14.  Ibid. p. 14.

15.  Ibid. p. 15.

16. This statement was found on the website of the Spokane County Department of Environmental Services, October 2020.

17. The Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer Technical Report, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Division of Environmental Quality, August 1988. See Abstract and pp. 31-34.

18. Limited data for the 1978 EPA Notice of Intent was confirmed by IDWR hydrogologist Daniel Sturgis in his June 2020 letter to Stakeholders in which he stated that current IDWR studies show Greenferry wells are completed in the SVRP Aquifer.

19.  Susceptibility Analysis Worksheet for Greenferry Well Number 0ne, State of Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, July 12, 2001.

20. Compilation of Geologic, Hydrologic, and Ground-Water Flow Modeling Information for the Spokane Valley—Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer, Spokane County, Washington, and Bonner and Kootenai Counties, Idaho Scientific Investigations Report 2005–5227 Ecology, U.S. Department of the Interior U.S. Geological Survey, Prepared in cooperation with the Idaho Department of Water Resources and the Washington Department of Ecology.

21.  Letter from IDWR technical hydrogeologist Daniel Sturgis to Stakeholders, July 7, 2020.

22. Confirmation of the rising water table in the area of Greenferry wells during summer months is explained to GWSD officials in a report from IDWR hydrogeologist Daniel Sturgis titled: Greenferry Water and Sewer District Levels, August 25, 2021.

23. Copious public testimony on the Bayshore Estates rezone issue in regards to water safety can be found in public records filed by the Kootenai County Department of Community Development.

24. Letter from DEQ Remediation Manager Gary Stevens to David Callahan, Director of Kootenai County Development regarding a Level Two Nutrient Pathogen Evaluation, November 10, 2020.

25. This is confirmed by letter from DEQ Drinking Water Protection Administrator Jerri Henry to Stakeholders, May 27, 2021.

26. Ibid.

27. Ketner’s statement is found in the Amended Staff Report of the Kootenai County Department of Community Development in the Matter of the Application of Bayshore Estates, November 12, 2020.

28. Gary Stevens, DEQ Waste and Remediation Manager, Northern Region met by Zoom with the Greenferry Water and Sewer District Board on September 21, 2020. Stevens advised the Board that Greenferry well are not completed in the SVRP Aquifer, but within a “general resource aquifer.” 

29.  Ground Water Quality Rule IDAPA 58.01.11, Management of Activities With the Potential to Degrade Aquifers, Section 301.

30. Letter from Daniel Sturgis, technical hydrogeologist with Idaho Department of Water Resources to DEQ Remediation Manager Gary Stevens, January 5, 2021. This letter was in response  to DEQ’s request for information on the various boundary maps submitted with the Sturgis June 2020 letter to Greenferry Stakeholders in which Sturgis stated that his studies show that the Greenferry wells are completed within the SVRP Aquifer.

31. Letter from the Greenferry Water and Sewer District Board to Kootenai County Community Development, February 2018; Letter from the Greenferry Water and Sewer District Board to Kootenai County Community Development, July 18, 2018; Letter from the Greenferry Water and Sewer District Board to Kootenai County Community Development, Received August 10, 2018.

32.  Letter from the Greenferry Water and Sewer District Board to Kootenai County Commissioners dated September 2, 2020. 

33. Letter dated January 5, 2020 from the Greenferry Water and Sewer Board of Directors to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality re: Petition to the Idaho Board of Environmental Quality for Recategorization of a Portion of the Aquifer at Risk Pursuant to  IDAPA  58.01.23. This letter was signed by all GWSD Board members.

34. Email from DEQ Ground Water Bureau Chief Ed Hagan, dated February 17, 2021, to Stakeholders regarding a gravel layer lying under the ground at 123 to 163 feet above Greenferry well drilled in 1989.

35. Level 2 Nutrient Pathogen Study, Project LCE-2021-002, Inland Earth Sciences,  September 3, 2021, p. 11.

36. Level 2 Nutrient Pathogen Study, Project LCE-2021-002, Inland Earth Sciences,   September 3, 2021.

37. Ibid. pp. 2-3.

38. Nutrient Pathogen Evaluations, Department of Environmental Quality, revision date May 6, 2002, p. 4.

39. Level 2 Nutrient Pathogen Study, Project LCE-2021-002, Inland Earth Sciences,  September 3, 2021, Disclaimer, p. 13.

40. E-mail from Environmental Health Section Manager for Panhandle Health  Erik Ketner to Greenferry Stakeholders, October 5, 2020:  Ketner stated: “IDAPA  41.01.01 does not include considerations for utilizing an NP analysis to bypass the minimum five acre requirement for parcels created after 1977 located within the designated Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer boundary identified in the rule [the 1978 EPA boundary map].”

41. Letter from DEQ Waste Management and Remediation Manager Gary Stevens  to Lake City Engineering, dated October 7, 2021.

42. An Evaluation for Potential Ground Water Contamination by Transport of Petroleum Products over the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer, Ground Water Investigation Report DEQ CRO-01-16, June 2016.

43. Level 2 Nutrient Pathogen Study, Project LCE-2021-002, Inland Earth Sciences,  September 3, 2021,  Summary of Selected Model Parameter Values, p. 12.

44. DEQ has confirmed that fast-draining sandy soils over the RSVP Aquifer do not provide sufficient filtering for septic contamination. In an e-mail to Stakeholders dated August 13, 2020, DEQ official Dan McCracken stated: “The purpose of one dwelling per five 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 drains through the soils in a drain field. The soils over the aquifer drain very quickly [as do the soils of the 28 Bayshore Estates acreage] 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 treatment systems in areas over the aquifer that are developed to a higher density.”

45. The Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer Technical Report, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Division of Environmental Quality, August 1988, Abstract and pp. 31-34.

46.  Powerlines, Kootenai Electric Newsletter for Cooperative members, August 2021.