Lone Peak/ Big Sky File Art

Lone Peak is shown in this Chronicle file photo.

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The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has determined that raw sewage didn’t contaminate a tributary of the Gallatin River after a manhole at Big Sky Resort overflowed in February.

The Big Sky Water and Sewer District won’t be fined for the sewage spill, DEQ spokesperson Moira Davin said in an email Tuesday.

District general manager Ron Edwards said he’s pleased the dispute over the spill has been resolved. He added that sewage spills are common and the DEQ investigates dozens of them annually.

The district has since cleaned the spill area, and the sewage system has been operating normally, Edwards said.

On the evening of Feb. 26, someone discovered that raw sewage had overflowed from a manhole near Low Dog Run, a ski trail that connects to Big Sky Resort’s Thunder Wolf chairlift. The water and sewer district said it removed a blockage that caused the spill by noon on Feb. 27.

The district has said the blockage stemmed from debris accumulating on a stainless-steel strap that had fallen into a sewer pipe and partially obstructed it. Because the pipe was only partially blocked, sewage still passed through it, but overflow occurred at high volume times, such as around breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The district estimated that about 12,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled before the blockage was removed.

At the request of the DEQ, the district collected water samples above and below the spill to determine if raw sewage entered the Middle Fork of the West Fork of the Gallatin River, which is about 170 feet from the spill site.

The DEQ concluded that there wasn’t “any significant difference” between the upstream and downstream samples and that “water quality standards were not exceeded,” according to a letter the department sent the district on Tuesday.

This isn’t the first time the DEQ has investigated a wastewater spill in Big Sky.

In 2017, the DEQ required the Yellowstone Club to pay a fine of $94,000 and to complete environmental projects related to water quality after the private resort spilled nearly 30 million gallons of treated wastewater into the Gallatin River in March 2016.

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Perrin Stein can be reached at pstein@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2648.

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