DEQ Press Releases

Davin, Moira

Sheep Creek Water Quality Improvement Plan Available for Comment

HELENA—The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is seeking comments, and holding a remote public meeting, on a draft water quality improvement plan for Sheep Creek in Meagher County, Mont. 

The draft “Sheep Creek Aluminum TMDL” and water quality improvement plan describes and discusses water quality problems related to Aluminum in Sheep Creek. Sheep Creek is not currently meeting Montana’s water quality standard for aluminum and the document provides a total maximum daily load (TMDL) to help address this problem. Total maximum daily load is a plan that identifies the maximum amount of pollutant water can receive while still meeting water quality standards.  The document also outlines a strategy for reducing aluminum concentrations in order to meet Montana’s water quality standard.

State law requires DEQ to develop TMDLs if a Montana Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (MPDES) application is submitted for a new, individual permit to discharge into a surface waterbody that is listed as impaired for pollutants pertaining to the permit and a TMDL has not been established for those pollutants. Sheep Creek is impaired for aluminum, which is primarily naturally occurring, and does not have a TMDL developed for aluminum. MPDES permits include a variety of effluent limits (metals, sediment, temperature and nutrients), monitoring requirements and other special conditions all designed to protect the receiving water bodies. The permittee is required to comply with all the conditions within the permit including specific levels for water quality prior to release into the environment. 

DEQ received a MPDES permit application from Tintina Montana Inc., to construct, operate and reclaim a new underground copper mine. DEQ is requiring, and Tintina has agreed to, protective measures to ensure water quality is not degraded. The mine will not be allowed to discharge any water involved in ore processing, only storm water and ground water that has been treated before discharge. No water may be discharged directly to surface water. Instead, the discharge must be injected into the ground where additional mitigation will take place before it reaches surface water, and Tintina must still meet the more stringent surface water quality standards. Tintina will also not be allowed to discharge any water at all during the months of July through September, when nitrogen in the water may stimulate algae growth.


DEQ is hosting a remote public meeting on Sept. 10, 2020 for the public to learn more about the “Sheep Creek Aluminum TMDL” plan. The meeting is accessible both online and by telephone and will include a small presentation and provide opportunity for questions. 

What: A remote public meeting on the draft water quality improvement plan for Sheep Creek will be held via Zoom.

When: Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. (please log-on 15 minutes early)

Where: Participants can join at: A call-in option is also available using (406) 444-9999 and ID: 924 5926 7925

If participants wish to join by phone, they may follow along with the presentation by downloading it ahead of time at: The presentation will be made available shortly before the meeting. Participants can find additional details on the Sheep Creek TMDL project on the website. A recording of the meeting will be available after the meeting, at the same link.  

Public comments will be accepted until 5 p.m., Sept. 22, 2020. To view the draft document and submit comments electronically, visit the DEQ website at: The document can also be viewed via the free public computer at the White Sulphur Springs Library.  Comments can also be mailed to: DEQ, Water Quality Planning Bureau, P.O. Box 200901, Helena, MT 59620.

Previous Article DEQ Issues Final Permit on the Black Butte Copper Project
Next Article Air Quality in Birney and Broadus Reaches Unhealthy Levels