We're working with partners to improve oxygen levels and reduce toxic chemicals, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), in the Spokane River basin. Many projects and studies, intended to improve and protect all 112 miles of the river and Lake Spokane, are complete or underway.
Collaborative efforts help us identify ways to improve the river and lake health for many uses, including hydropower, wastewater management, fish habitat, and recreation.
What's in the Spokane River?
Spokane River suffers from low oxygen and high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and metals, which are bad for fish and other aquatic animals.
Because of the presence of PCBs in fish, the Washington Department of Health issued a Health Advisory for eating Spokane River fish.
Working to meet water quality standards
We review and reissue clean water permits to ensure the five wastewater treatment facilities that discharge into the Spokane River continue to meet clean water requirements. The new clean water requirements include strict limitations on pollutants like phosphorus and PCBs.
We started the rulemaking process to consider variances in 2019, as a first step to reissuing permits. However, we cannot move into the formal rule proposal phase of this process because the federal government's action to withdraw previously-approved water quality standards for certain human health criteria, including PCBs. We have challenged the action in court, while we wait for the courts to decide, we're seeking informal feedback on our preliminary plans. Visit our rulemaking webpage to see the documents and more information about how to submit comments.
Along with our partners, we've developed several plans that set targets to improve the health of the Spokane River, Lake Spokane, and their tributaries. These plans:
- Set limits on how much pollution cities and industry can release into the river and still maintain good water quality.
- Recommend actions to help prevent pollution from sources such as stormwater, forestry, and agricultural runoff.
Who releases wastewater into Spokane River?
Five facilities currently release wastewater into the Spokane River:
Reducing pollution from other sources
Local conservation districts, environmental groups, and Avista are also working on additional projects to improve the health of the river.