The real definition is “liquid waste or sewage discharged into a river or the sea.”
On March 3 of this year “a leak was reported at the Yellowstone Club’s wastewater retention pond that lasted for more than 90 hours, leaking approximately 30 million gallons of effluent into a small tributary of the Gallatin River.”
This was caused because of a ruptured 24-inch pipe, something that may have happened because of “ice formation in the pond that could have damaged the pipe.” Crews had to use chainsaws to cut through the ice just to get a camera down to look.
Usually this wastewater pond holds 80 million gallons, but it contained just 35 million gallons at the time of the breach.
The pond was 50-feet deep. It was a 30-inch diameter steel casement pipe that had two smaller pipes inside.
In the span of just 24 hours, about 21 million gallons were released from the pond, with 14 million gallons going into the Gallatin River and another 8 million diverted into a gold course pond.
This all happened because the Yellowstone Club isn’t connected to sewer lines and relies on a large wastewater pond for what it flushes down the toilets.
At the time of the leak the wastewater pond had 20,000 gallons taken from it each day by truck. The trucks drove it to the Spanish Peaks manhole and dumped it in, knowing it’d flow to the BSWSD treatment plant.
Why is the Yellowstone Club having this mess, and who exactly is the Yellowstone Club anyways?
A History of the Yellowstone Club
Together with his wife, Blixseth formed Big Sky Lumber with some partners and borrowed $3 million from investors to use as leverage to get hold of 140,000 acres of “prime timber land intertwined with public U.S. Forest Service lands in Montana – lands which had been sought by CNN mogul Ted Turner.”
Turner wanted to conserve the land, Blixseth wanted to use it as a playground for the rich.
First Blixseth would enrich himself, which he did to the tune of $25 million after swapping 93,000 acres back to the feds. Another 15,000 acres that bordered Big Sky Resort was “spun off” to his partners and investors, leaving Blixseth with 32,000 acres.
The club fell on hard times in 2008 and filed for bankruptcy the next year. At that time the owners were $343 million in debt. A large reason for this was a bad deal with Credit Suisse Group that robbed investors while profiting Blixseth.
Then the messy divorce proceedings between Blixseth and his wife came about.
This is when the shady business with Montana Democrats comes about.
Blixseth’s ex-wife met with Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and that meeting “resulted in a decision to allow Blixseth’s ex-wife and Sam Byrne, a Boston real estate investor with ties to the Democratic Party, to buy the Yellowstone Club at a price substantially below market value after the bankruptcy had been declared.”
Tim Blixseth’s attorney alleges that Sam Byrne, a “Boston real estate investor with ties to the Democratic Party” and Ron Burkle, “a supermarket king who raised more than $1 million for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign” worked with Schweitzer to funnel “more than $1.2 million through the Democratic Governor’s Association in 2008 to the Montana Democratic Party for the benefit of Schwitzer’s re-election campaign.”
4&20 had a lot of commentary on this back in July 2013 and it’s worth a look.
In 2009 a group called CrossHarbor Capital Partners bought the Yellowstone Club for $115 million, something that likely never would have happened had Schweitzer not interfered to ensure Blixseth’s ex-wife got to buy the club a short time before.
CrossHarbor really turned the Yellowstone Club around.
Currently the club takes up 13,600 acres. It touts its “private powder,” which won’t be sullied by the common people. The rich can enjoy “60 runs, 2,200 skiable acre, and 2,700 vertical feet.”
In 2012 the New York Times reported that the club had 250 members and that it cost $250,000 to join, plus the cost of a “$5 million to $35 million mountainside home,” not to mention the annual membership dues of $20,000. By 2014 there were 500 members.
In 2013 Big Sky Resort’s owners, Boyne Resorts,” partnered with CrossHarbor to buy up a 5,700-acre real estate project called Spanish Peaks for $26 million. A short time later they got hold of the bankrupt Moonlight Basin ski club.
Despite spending all this money, the Yellowstone Club either couldn't or wouldn't build a proper sewage system for its gated community.
The wastewater pond that had the ruptured pipe had been built in 2005 and was more than 8,000 feet up on a ridge between Second and Third Yellow Mule Creeks.
We know that in 2012 there was a leak of 15 gallons per minute from the pipe so in 2014 the pond was “completely emptied and inspected.”
Tears and punctures were discovered and fixed. Then in the summer of 2015 the pond was drained again as a 4 gallon per minute leak had been detected.
The head of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality at that time was Tracy Stone-Manning.
What ties did she have to the Yellowstone Club from 2012 to 2014 when she was heading up that state agency?
Did she know about the massive leaks in 2012, 2014, and again in 2015? After all, the 2012 leak was 6 times the DEQ legal limit. She should know, right?
Was she informed about those or wasn’t she? We know of those leaks from the March 2016 incident report (PDF) on the leak this year.
Why did 18th District Water Court Judge Holly Brown not contact Stone-Manning regarding Water Commissioner John Morse’s reports on the spills?
Just this month the Montana legislature’s Water Policy Interim Committee met and discussed the effluent spill and its status.
And then we get to Brian Schweitzer’s dealings and the dirty hands of the Montana Democratic Party.
My, what a mess…and we’re not even talking about the effluent.
It’s important to remember that in 2005 Tim Blixseth “may have stashed more than $200 million he pulled from” the Yellowstone Club before things went bad.
This is substantiated by a 2006 promissory noted drafted by Blixseth’s lawyers for $208 million.
We know that some of that money likely wound up in Brian Schweitzer’s campaign bank account and many wonder if this is why he chose not to run for the U.S. Senate in 2014.
Could some have wound up in Tracy Stone-Manning’s bank account, or other high-up Democrats’ bank accounts?
It's a good bet the Montana Democratic Party got some in its bank account back in 2008.
Again why, as head of Montana DEQ during the years when the Yellowstone Club’s wastewater ponds were leaking, did Tracy Stone-Manning do nothing?
Another question is, 'where is Blixseth's money?'
In 2014 the courts ordered Blixseth to pay back $13 million from a Mexican resort sale to the investors that lost out in the 2009 bankruptcy. Blixseth refused, and that’s why he was sent to prison for 15 months.
He got out on July 6.
Where is he…what’s he doing?
And why is there a 10% bounty on anyone that can help find the missing money that Tim Blixseth refuses to talk about?
There’s quite a story here, Montana, and about the only one I see digging into it at all is Phil Drake over at the GF Tribune.
Perhaps we’ll hear more on it soon.
I have a feeling we will.