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Water Quality

The MCD began its involvement with water quality sampling and monitoring in 1996 when they participated with School District 16 employees (Meeteetse High School and Grade School) at the Teton Science School (TSS) Water Quality Training Program. Following the TSS training, the MCD conducted preliminary qualitative sampling on three monitoring points- two on the Greybull River and one on the Wood River. The MCD also received training from the State Department of Environmental Quality water quality professionals. Since then the MCD has invested both time and money through the employment of a professional staff and the use of state-of-the-art water quality sampling equipment.

Samples are collected for E. coli (measured using the Colilert methodology), turbidity, and chemical constituents. Physical measurements normally include dissolved oxygen, conductivity, pH, and temperature. The Wyoming Department of Agriculture – Analytical Lab performs the chemical analysis and has worked with the MCD since the inception of the program.

Strategic watershed planning on the Greybull River has evolved in response to concerns about water quality and as a result of statewide watershed planning efforts of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality – Water Quality Division (WQD), the Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA), and the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD). Guidance for the watershed planning effort will come from the WQD, WDA, WACD, as well as other sources.

The MCD has facilitated the creation of the Greybull River Watershed Plan Steering Committee. The committee is made up of persons working towards the development of a comprehensive plan for continued or improved health of the Greybull River watershed within Park County . Additional members are welcome. For more information please feel free to contact the MCD.

E . Coli Monitoring and Septic Information

The MCD has conducted quantitative fecal coliform and e-coli sampling on the Greybull River in order to further understand the bacterial contamination that was identified by the Wyoming DEQ and the United States Geological Survey.  The MCD created a fact sheet for on-site sewage disposal systems and mailed it to the Cooperators of the MCD.
WQM-E-1

The Meeteetse Conservation District (MCD) has been working to obtain data and information on the water quality in our jurisdiction for a number of years.  Our objective was to obtain water quality data and information on our rivers and streams in order to have an excellent defense against any proposed federal regulations that might unduly restrict the custom and cultures the cooperators of the MCD have established since their settling of the area.  We also want the data and information to help define the existing natural systems, including water quality, so that we can better explain the interactions of our cooperators’ soil and water management with that natural system.  Our District with the help of the State and the taxpaying cooperators of the MCD have been able to obtain quantitative chemical, biological and physical data and information on the water quality of the Greybull River.  Our present analysis of the data and information indicates that the river is meeting the State Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) standards and mandated beneficial uses for the water, all excepting the “fecal coliform” water quality standard.

The DEQ tried to deduce from their data that the whole Greybull River was not meeting its beneficial use for contact recreation due to high levels of fecal coliform contamination in the river. The work of the MCD has provided the quantitative data to prove that the Greybull River is meeting the beneficial use of contact recreation except from the confluence with Bighorn River upstream to the Sheets Flat bridge. Presently the DEQ is using a fecal coliform standard, but is planning to move to an e-coli standard in the very near future due to e-coli being a better indicator of pathogenic contamination of the body of water. In years of testing for fecal coliform and e-coli the MCD has found that the Greybull River generally does not exceed the state and federal standard for e-coli; and that at times when the river is running higher due to late spring runoff or an up-country rain event the levels of e-coli in water may temporarily be above impairment standards. The 2006 listing of the Greybull River in the DEQ’s 303 (d) list and 305 (b) Report to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for fecal coliform/e-coli contamination showed the river not meeting the standard from the confluence with Bighorn River upstream to the Sheets Flat bridge.

In order to help obtain the data and information necessary to further understand the impairment, MCD has invested in a e-coli measurement system by which we can test  water collected in the field right here at our office in Meeteetse rather than having to send the samples to an outside lab.  The purchase of the system was wholly supported by a grant from the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts.  The system purchased has an additional benefit in that we can provide a service to those cooperators who depend on water wells or springs for domestic water sources.  At the request of the landowner we can obtain water samples and determine if those water sources are contaminated with e-coli or total coliform bacteria.

The State DEQ has indicated to the MCD that if we can show that all HUMAN SOURCES of e-coli contamination can be eliminated from the watershed, then it will only be common sense that an uncontrollable source-wildlife is the cause. The HUMAN SOURCES of e-coli contamination include: leaking or direct flows of human sewage from on-site septic tanks and leachfields; livestock containment or feeding areas with direct access to and/or adjoining the body of water (the Greybull River or a tributary of the Greybull River). In an effort to sort out and evaluate the possibility of human contamination we are suggesting that each landowner whose property adjoins the rivers and streams, VOLUNTARILY research and answer the following questions to yourselves in order to determine if a RISK for HUMAN SOURCES of contamination exists on their property. If you believe there is a RISK on your property, then the MCD can meet with you and provide the necessary technical assistance to help alleviate the RISK.  The MCD can also provide on-site assistance if you need help with the evaluation of RISK.

The questions we suggest you ask yourselves are as follows:

Do I know if I have an on-site septic tank and leachfield?
If you do not know, you are at a risk.
If you do not know if you have an on-site small wastewater system (septic tank and leachfield) then the MCD can assist you.
Do I know where my septic tank is located?
If you do not know you are at a risk.
If you do not know where your septic tank is it normally means the tank has not been pumped to eliminate a solids buildup.  If the tank is not pumped for a prolonged period the solids in the tank may build up to point to destroy the leachfield and the treatment of the wastewater would be minimal to none.
Do I have any pipe coming to the surface of the ground above the location where I believe the septic tank to be located?
The pipe is normally installed in the septic tank to allow periodic pumping of the septic tank to eliminate accumulated solids.  As long as you know where your access lids to the septic tank you are minimally at risk.  If you have no risers on your septic tank or do not check it periodically for solid accumulation you are at a risk.
Do I know where my leachfield is located?
If you do not know you are at a risk.
If you believe that you have no leachfield for your septic tank, then you may have a pipe that leads directly to a draw or body of water. If so you are definitely are at risk and a primary source of e-coli loading.
How close is my septic tank from any body of water (irrigation supply/waste ditch, creek or river)?
The septic tank must be 25 feet or greater from any body of water.  If it is less than that you may have a risk.
Any body of water influences groundwater and the close proximity of the river, stream or irrigation ditch to the septic tank may cause groundwater to communicate with the wastes in the tank and lead back to the river or stream.
How close is my leachfield from any body of water (irrigation supply/waste ditch, creek or river)?
The leachfield must be at least 50 feet from any body of water.  If it less than 50 feet you may be at a risk.
Any body of water influences groundwater and the close proximity of the river, stream or irrigation ditch to the leachfield may cause groundwater to communicate with the wastewater draining into the surrounding soil from the leachfield and lead back to the river or stream.  Even with no known groundwater the closeness of the leachfield to any body of water can cause a risk of contamination.
Do I know how far the leachfield or septic tank is from the water well or spring I use for my drinking water source?
The leachfield must be located 100 feet or more from your domestic water source, if not you may have a risk to your health or others.  The septic tank must be located 50 feet or more from your domestic water source, if not you may have a risk to your health or others.  If your source of drinking water is closer than the distances above you may be at risk due to the migration of wastewater to the water zone supplying your source water.
Do I have seasonally high groundwater in the area where my septic tank and/or leachfield are located?
If you have seasonally high groundwater in the area of the small wastewater system then you may be at risk.
Seasonally high groundwater is created by rises in the flow of the streams and rivers as well as flood irrigation of crop and hayfields.  Depending on the type of soil column and the amount of and times of irrigation may cause the soil column to become saturated with water.  As the saturation increases so does the height of the water in the soil.  For example in wetland areas (cattails-bog, etc.) the total soil column is saturated.  If groundwater rises to communicate with the leachfield trench, then groundwater contamination or the leachfield failure is a risk.  Typically if groundwater rises to flood the leachfield then when one tries to dispose of water it will flow back into the house because it has nowhere to go.
Have I had any problems with the operation of the septic tank or the leachfield?
If you have had any problems with your system than you may be at risk.
The MCD will provide technical assistance to you at your request.
Please call 868-2484 for an appointment.
Have I had to replace the septic tank or the leachfield or both without obtaining a county small wastewater permit?
If you have replaced or built a new system without obtaining a permit from the County then you are at risk.
The MCD will provide technical assistance to you at your request.
Please call 868-2484 for an appointment.
Is my livestock corral or containment facility adjacent, adjoining or near any body of water?
The EPA has adopted new federal regulations controlling livestock waste and water quality.  Those regulations have the force and effect of law.  If you have a corral that holds livestock for any time greater than 45 (nonconsecutive) days in a year and no vegetation is sustained in the corral then it is a animal feeding operation and may be subject to federal and state regulations. The regulations require that Animal Feeding Operations (AFO) be located so as to not allow water to flow through the AFO and then into a body of water.  Depending on the number of livestock you have in the corral or confinement will put the operation into a Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) category with mandatory regulatory requirements.  The key to understanding your operation’s risk is to determine if the wastes in the corral can reach the body of water in any form.
Do I allow livestock to water out of any body of water in a corralled or confined situation?
If you corral or confinement boundary “fences in” a portion of an irrigation/waste ditch, stream or river, or even a dry wash then you may have a risk of becoming regulated by the EPA or the State DEQ.  The MCD can provide you technical assistance upon your request.
Are there places where livestock congregate that allow their waste to be carried into any body of water by snowmelt or rainstorms?
If you have livestock congregating in an area where they have access to a river or stream during the winter or summer you may have the risk of generating waste that could flow directly into the body of the water.

As stated previously, MCD has the capacity to assist cooperators with the above situations and we hope that you will voluntarily participate in order to protect our community from further regulation by the state or federal government, or attacks by non-profit organizations. If we cannot determine the sources of bacterial loading in the streams, then our community could be at risk for forced changes in land use management that could negatively affect our cooperators. Thank-you.