Monday, October 4, 2010

Take a look at the draft permits for Spokane River

By Jani Gilbert, Communications Manager, Ecology Eastern Regional Office

The blue-green toxic algae that is hanging on and growing at Lake Spokane right now will be much less a problem in the future, thanks to new requirements in updated water quality permits soon to be issued to the four facilities that discharge waste water into the Spokane River.

But first, the public has a 45-day chance to review and comment on the draft water quality permits before they become final.

The permits will go to the city of Spokane’s Riverside Park Water Reclamation Facility, Inland Empire Paper, Kaiser Aluminum, and Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District. They are designed to increase the amount of oxygen in the water by limiting the amount of nutrient pollution, such as phosphorus, that can be discharged to the river. Phosphorus actually fertilizes aquatic plant life such as algae, and in the right conditions they can turn toxic and dangerous to people and animals. When the algae die off, they consume oxygen, robbing fish of the oxygen they need to survive.

The permits are called National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. They are required for any municipality or industry that discharges waste water to lakes, streams and rivers. They are based on a water-quality improvement plan called the Spokane River and Lake Spokane Dissolved Oxygen Water Quality Improvement Report, also called a Total Maximum Daily Load report or TMDL. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved the report on May 20, 2010.

The limits imposed in these water quality permits require reducing the load of total phosphorus by more than 90 percent from all the dischargers during the critical period of March 1 – October 31.

In order to meet their permit limits, dischargers will install advanced wastewater treatment technologies and may take other actions such as reducing nutrient pollution from other types of sources.

A public workshop will be held at 6 p.m. and a formal public hearing will begin at at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010 at the Spokane Regional Health District auditorium, 1101 W. College Avenue.

The permits are available for review at the Department of Ecology’s Spokane Office, 4601 N. Monroe St., Spokane, Wash., 99205. Please call 509-329-4004 for an appointment. They also are available on line.

The deadline for submitting comments is 5 p.m., Nov. 17, 2010. They should be submitted to the Permit Coordinator at or by mail at 4601 N. Monroe St., Spokane, WA 99205.

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