To better protect the Spokane watershed, it is time to revise the wastewater permits for five facilities on the Spokane River. Department of Ecology’s proposed updates reflect technology upgrades at the facilities and include limits on the amount of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that can go into the river. Persistent chemical compounds that stay in the environment for decades, PCBs can have toxic effects and cause cancer in people and animals.
Ecology is updating the five permits in phases over the next four months. The permits are how the state ensures facilities discharging to the river are meeting a wide range of water quality requirements.
“Spokane-area wastewater dischargers have made great strides towards our shared priority of a clean Spokane River,” said Brook Beeler, the eastern regional director for Ecology. “These proposed revisions are another critical step to ensuring the community has access to healthy fish for those that rely on them.”
The five facilities each have their own permit, specific to how they operate and what they discharge into the river. All facilities must meet the state’s clean water requirements, including strict limits on phosphorus and PCBs. Under the permits, the facilities must also implement best management practices for reducing PCBs.
Ecology encourages public participation and will share each facility’s draft permit for public comment. Below are the facilities and the estimated timeframe for when the public comment period will start:
- Kaiser Aluminum Trentwood Works – public comment starts today, Dec. 29, 2021
- City of Spokane – public comment starts today, Dec. 29, 2021
- Inland Empire Paper Company – public comment estimated to start late January 2022
- Spokane County – public comment estimated to start late January 2022
- Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District – public comment estimated to start late February 2022
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Kaiser Aluminum and City of Spokane permits available for comment
The Kaiser Aluminum Trentwood Works and City of Spokane Riverside Park Water Reclamation Facility water quality permits are available for public comment from Dec. 29, 2021 – Feb. 28, 2022. (Note: The original deadline was Feb. 11. Ecology announced a comment period extension on Jan. 26) Ecology is proposing a number of updates to the permits, including numeric limits for PCBs, and requirements to expand toxics management strategies.
The proposed Kaiser permit has updated limits for total phosphorus, ammonia, and carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand (CBOD5). The permit also includes requirements outlined in a January 2020 Agreed Order between Kaiser and Ecology that identified additional actions focused on PCB removal technologies to further improve water quality in the Spokane River.
The proposed City of Spokane permit includes stricter limits for cadmium, lead, zinc, ammonia, pH, and fecal coliform.
Ecology is hosting two workshop/hearings during this comment period, on Feb. 1 and 3, 2022. The virtual events will start with a presentation on the draft permits, followed by questions and answers and then a formal public hearing.
To learn more about this effort, please read our Spokane River Permits focus sheet.