SHOSHONE — Last winter, all hell broke loose. Rainfall and frozen ground compounded inevitable flooding in one of the wettest winters in southern Idaho.
Especially hard hit was Lincoln County, where commissioners declared a state of emergency in mid-February.
Now county residents who had their domestic wells tested during a water advisory due to contaminated water want to be reimbursed for the cost. The county says no.
On Feb. 11, commissioners called an emergency meeting because “dairies have reported that wastewater ponds are in danger of overflowing and contaminating waterways,” according to the minutes.
Overwhelmed with floodwater, 4 Bros. Dairy northwest of Shoshone pumped lagoon water into the Milner-Gooding Canal. Contamination disappeared into a fissure in the canal and reappeared in domestic wells, prompting a water advisory for areas of Lincoln and Gooding counties.
“Apparently, this wastewater has found its way into the drinking water,” said Lynn Harmon, the canal manager who ordered the dairy to stop pumping the wastewater into the canal and alerted Idaho State Department of Agriculture.
Residents said their water was “discolored” and had “a bad odor,” Harmon said in February.
Lincoln County then urged homeowners with domestic wells within the advisory area to have their water tested and promised to reimburse them for the cost of the tests if they kept their receipts.
“We were going to be reimbursed by the state,” Lincoln County Commissioner Rebecca Wood of Richfield told the Times-News Thursday.
Or so they thought.
The well-water test kits were free to homeowners, but the lab work cost $16 for each test. Some 20 to 40 wells were tested; not all tested positive for contaminates, but many showed E. coli bacteria and coliform, said a joint release from both counties.
Lincoln County expected to get disaster or emergency funding, but never got any, County Clerk Brenda Farnworth said Friday.
“We were told it was not a large enough claim to warrant state or federal funding,” Farnworth said. It was not immediately clear how many claims had been submitted to the county.
No homeowners’ claims have been reimbursed by the county, she said.
No municipal water systems were affected, Commissioner Cressly McConnel said Thursday; therefore, the state said it was a private matter.
Payson Reese, Lincoln County Emergency Services manager, said Thursday he hadn’t heard anything about the county not reimbursing homeowners.
Robb Geesen, who lives 6 miles north of Shoshone just off Idaho 75, said he had his water tested because he was in the advisory area. He was turned down by the county when he submitted his receipt.
“As for the $16 — well, it’s the principle,” Geesen said this week. “The commissioners said they would pay for it.”