Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Yes, we ARE moving ahead

by Jani Gilbert, communication manager, Eastern Regional Office

Remember that water quality improvement plan (or TMDL) for the Spokane River and Lake Spokane that’s been in the works for years? It was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in May this year. It’s all speed ahead now and implementation is the name of the game.

Facilities that discharge into the Spokane River are soon to get new water-quality permits. First they’ll be reviewed by the public, the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) will make appropriate changes based on public comments, and then the industries and municipalities will get their permits. Five years later the permits will be reviewed again and a team of wastewater treatment experts and scientists will decide whether or not the facilities are on track to meet water quality standards by 2020. If not, adjustments in requirements may be made.

“All speed ahead” doesn’t necessarily mean smoothly, though. It can mean there are bumps and turns and near misses along the way to a clean, clear, healthy river and lake. For example, Ecology and the EPA are working to come up with a way that facilities can meet part of their requirements to discharge less phosphorus by reducing pollution somewhere else. That process will likely generate lots of discussion along the way.

In addition, Post Falls filed suit against the EPA for approving the water quality improvement plan because city officials feel that the limits that some of the dischargers were given for the amount of phosphorus they can discharge were unfair. Ecology has answered that charge in an editorial published in the Coeur d’Alene Press Sept. 1.

Meanwhile we are propelling ahead to move through the steps outlined in the approved plan. And next, the public will have a chance to review the draft permits that will guide the discharging facilities in their efforts to clean up the river.

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