Flathead Basin pollution model completed

A long-awaited model for nutrient pollution in the Flathead Basin has been released, with mixed results . . .

A long awaited computer model for nutrient pollution in the Flathead Basin is completed. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency contracted with TetraTech to support development of the model, and a draft report on the model was released Nov. 3.

Deficiencies in the model are described in the draft report. While the model reportedly did well in simulating point sources, nonpoint source modeling proved difficult, an issue with political ramifications for the Flathead’s cities and towns, where officials are concerned about spending millions of dollars on treatment plants that will provide small incremental benefits to the watershed.

“There is uncertainty associated with the simulated loading results from many of the nonpoint sources,” the report concludes. “Given the lack of source-specific monitoring data, quantifying the uncertainty is not possible.”

Many nonpoint sources are caused by natural changes in the watershed, and the report states that “additional work outside of this modeling framework would be necessary to quantify the split between natural and anthropogenic (manmade) nonpoint sources.”

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