HELENA — Montana is known for its beautiful mountain scenery, and some would even consider it the best place on earth for fishing so when avid fisherman Patrick Hogan was out on the Missouri River near Townsend and saw it sprinkled with old water bottles, he couldn’t let it go.
Hogan says, “When you put in at Toston, you float directly underneath the new bridge that is being built there along Highway 287 and immediately thereafter, I started seeing debris against the left-hand side of the bank.”
This was not just one or two pieces of wood and a couple old cans.
Patrick says, “So I started counting, and within the first half mile I counted 39 plastic water bottles floating up against the bank, along with a lot of other debris, and as we floated I saw more and more debris and it was obviously construction materials.”
Patrick decided to take pictures of the debris; he couldn’t believe the entire 11 miles he floated down, was full of debris.
Hogan says, “The next day I decided you know what I am going to call Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and talk to whoever answered the phone and told them this is what I saw, and I would like to talk to someone about it. She put me on hold and came back within a minute and said, you know, fishery said it’s not our issue, you need to talk to Department of Transportation.”
Patrick calls up the Montana Department of Transportation.
He said, “I just want to report this to somebody, because it’s pretty obvious you know what's going on, and she said okay, let me see who the appropriate person to talk to would be. She comes back and says, oh that would be our construction management team, I will connect you.”
He continues on by saying, “They transferred me to another person. I said here is my story, went through it, and I said really, you know, trash needs to be picked up and someone needs to be accountable for it and I need someone to talk to. She says that would be the manager for the construction on the bridge, and hung up!”
At this point Patrick had had enough being tossed around, he contacted MTN News.
We started our investigation with Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.
They said, “Sounds like we've had multiple calls (referencing the same debris). We've been directing people to MDT….it isn't our authority here. Sounds like DEQ has that authority to fine people.”
We then reached out to MDT and received this response, “Due to weather and high winds MDT has worked with the contractor concerning this issue. The contractor is responsible for clean-up of the site. I have followed up with the district and the construction office concerning the phone call and there have been no calls reported to these locations.”
MDT denied ever receiving a call from Patrick, or any other concerned citizen. When FWP said they received multiple calls and directed them to MDT.
Lastly we reached out to the Department of Environmental Quality and were told, “We don’t have any complaints related to this issue. Our team followed up with MDT and it sounds like they are working on it. If you have additional questions, I suggest you connect with MDT.”
Patrick says, “You know I tried to contact someone that I thought was authority to go an investigate. I am not trying to be an activist, I am just saying this is what I saw and something needs to be done about it!”
Shortly after MTN began researching this incident, DEQ posted to their Twitter site a direct link on where to report spills or complaints, it can be found here : https://deq.mt.gov/reporting.