East of Spokane, Washington, the ghost of decades-old industrial pollution still haunts the groundwater. Laden with chemicals that can cause cancer and developmental disabilities, the subsurface water flows into the Spokane River before it winds through the city and then across the Spokane Indian Reservation. Along the way, toxics pile up, contaminating fish in the river. The Kaiser Trentwood aluminum rolling factory, a sprawling industrial complex near the riverside, now dotted with decaying concrete buildings, was once the source of much of this pollution. The still-operating factory, which manufactured metal for bombs and airplanes during World War II, no longer uses the toxic polychlorinated biphenyls PCBs that make up the nastiest part of the pollution.
Pollutiion variances for any watershed have been issued in Washington, according to the Department of Ecology. Jerry White Jr. That will make their fix specific to Spokane. Subscribe to: Post Comments Atom. Conservation and environmental groups work directly with landowners to reduce runoff from forestry and agriculture practices.
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Retrofit lighting. Use xeriscape techniques when landscaping to conserve water rivfr to serve as an example for others. Toggle navigation Donate. That is equal to one part per quadrillion. Use non-chemical pest control methods such as swatters for insects and mechanical traps for mice. As a governing body, Spokane river pollution solving are required to Spokane river pollution solving with state and federal hazardous waste laws. About Waterkeeper United as one powerful force, Waterkeeper Mirror sluts fights for every community's right to drinkable, fishable, swimmable water. Anti-pollution laws can as well establish measures that put restrictions for top water pollution problems such as sewage and industrial waste treatments rvier garbage management. PCBs are industrial compounds that were manufactured and used in heavy industrial machinery until they were banned in Communities throughout Idaho are encouraged to use site and watershed planning to integrate the ricer application of comprehensive design principles that preserve the integrity of natural landscapes. Properly maintain small engines, such as lawnmowers, and consider emissions when Spokane river pollution solving new equipment. No comments:.
That prompted a lawsuit from Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and drew outrage from conservation and tribal groups.
- The lower Spokane River, just minutes from downtown Spokane.
- This has led to contamination of drinking water and making the aquatic habitat unbearable thereby steadily degrading the quality of public health and aquatic life.
New limits on the amount of carcinogenic chemicals that can be discharged into the Spokane River have the city talking with Trump administration officials about a potential workaround. Environmental groups warn the strategy could undo work to make fish taken from the river safer to eat, and trade groups have proposed another path that would eliminate the new federal rule altogether and return to a standard state regulators had deemed safe.
Mayor David Condon traveled to Washington, D. Top EPA officials, including Lee Forsgren, deputy assistant administrator for water, have suggested the city apply for what is known as a variance from the new federal standard, according to the city. The meeting between Condon and the EPA set off alarms in the environmental community, who believed the mayor was asking the agency to disregard its new rule.
There still are concerns about the city pursuing a variance from groups working to clean up the river. If it were, the permit would be up for re-evaluation again in five years, and political changes at the federal level could put the city back in the same situation under a new president and new environmental agency leaders. Aside from a variance, the city could establish a long-term plan to meet the standard that was set by the EPA.
The plan sets milestones for elimination of the chemical element present in fertilizers and animal droppings that can lead to a buildup of algae. The city would agree to meet a standard that is below the level of detection in lab tests, a threshold that would be less stringent than the EPA rule but would not open the limit of PCBs in the river to renegotiation.
Those options would work within the current EPA standard, which is the approach Jerry White, the Spokane Riverkeeper, said would be preferable to the uncertainty of the variance process.
How do we meet that really high bar? No variances for any watershed have been issued in Washington, according to the Department of Ecology. Doing so would set a precedent that could spread throughout the state and country, Eichstaedt said. Trade organizations also are concerned about the prospect of a variance, but they argue the EPA should do away with its rule altogether and go back to the less-stringent standard adopted by the Department of Ecology.
That firm is a subsidiary of the Cowles Co. Meanwhile, the Department of Ecology is hoping to begin the permitting process under the new federal standard as early as the beginning of next year, said Brook Beeler, an ecology spokeswoman, in an email. The EPA field office in Seattle issued a statement in response to questions for this story, saying the agency was committed to working with state officials and the city to come up with a river cleanup plan.
But City Council President Ben Stuckart, who said he was surprised to learn the city was investigating a variance, said city lawmakers should be involved in the discussions moving forward and dismissed the notion that the budget needed to be revised before investigating other methods of complying with the new EPA rules. By Kip Hill kiph spokesman. There was a problem subscribing you to the newsletter.
Double check your email and try again, or email webteam spokesman. Top stories in Spokane.
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Spokane river pollution solving. How Your Community Can Prevent Pollution
That is equal to one part per quadrillion. Why do we care about such tiny measurements? Many toxic chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls PCBs remain in the environment and build up over time in fish, animals and people. They can cause adverse health effects, including cancer and harm to immune, nervous, and reproductive systems. So finding and removing even the smallest amount of PCBs can make a big difference in water quality. Addressing this big challenge in Spokane In the Spokane River, small measurements have always been a big challenge.
Clean water requirements include strict limitations on pollutants like phosphorus and PCBs. In , new requirements from the Environmental Protection Agency made the challenge bigger by making the standard smaller.
The water quality standard changed from parts per quadrillion to seven parts per quadrillion. New clean water permits for Spokane River We need to review and reissue permits for five wastewater treatment facilities that discharge into the Spokane River to include the new clean water requirements for PCBs. The task was to develop a strategy that will ultimately get us to our goal of meeting the water quality standard.
Tackling the challenge by looking at the whole problem The Spokane River community has a long history of adopting a collaborative approach to solving water quality problems. The lower Spokane River, just minutes from downtown Spokane. Photo courtesy of Bart Mihailovich. Once considered a miracle chemical, PCBs were manufactured in the United States from until they were banned in They were used in hundreds of industrial and commercial applications, including as dielectric insulating and coolant fluids in transformers, capacitors, electric motors and other electrical devices.
PCBs entered the environment during their manufacture and use and also frequently leaked or were released from electrical equipment.
They became a fiendish toxic hazard because, once in the environment, they do not readily break down and may cycle between air, water and soil for many years. They remain one of the largest obstacles to PCBS clean water — and to restoring the health of the Spokane River watershed.
But thanks to the Clean Water Act, the Spokane region is on a promising path to solving this problem. The notice made clear that City of Spokane officials had known about illegal PCB discharges from city outfalls since but had repeatedly failed to report or take meaningful and effective steps to stop them.
A toxic past and present on the Spokane River — High Country News
East of Spokane, Washington, the ghost of decades-old industrial pollution still haunts the groundwater. Laden with chemicals that can cause cancer and developmental disabilities, the subsurface water flows into the Spokane River before it winds through the city and then across the Spokane Indian Reservation.
Along the way, toxics pile up, contaminating fish in the river. The Kaiser Trentwood aluminum rolling factory, a sprawling industrial complex near the riverside, now dotted with decaying concrete buildings, was once the source of much of this pollution.
The still-operating factory, which manufactured metal for bombs and airplanes during World War II, no longer uses the toxic polychlorinated biphenyls PCBs that make up the nastiest part of the pollution. But its groundwater, which is filled with PCBs from decades of production, makes the site a major source of contamination in the Spokane River. Today, the company is working to clean up the aquifer it once polluted.
Water is drawn up from below and into a filtration system that pumps it through tanks filled with ground-up walnut shells, which capture the PCBs in their absorbent pores. The PCBs are then washed from the walnut shells and stored in tanks.
The cleanup at Kaiser Trentwood is part of a widespread effort in the watershed to exorcise the PCB demons of the past. Many American cities are struggling with similar, seemingly intractable problems. Now Spokane has emerged as a leader, testing both the potential for innovation and the limits on cleaning up decades of toxic waste.
Originally developed in the late s and produced exclusively by Monsanto in the United States, PCBs were a wonder chemical for industrial technology, with a high boiling point and electric insulating properties.
But they also had devastating impacts on human and ecosystem health. For years, Monsanto suppressed internal findings about their toxicity. When the truth was revealed in the s, the federal government outlawed the production of PCBs. Like many pollutants that affect animal and human health, PCBs build up in the food chain, accumulating in small amounts in microorganisms, and then in increasing amounts in fish and the animals, like orcas and humans, that eat them.
That is a far cry from the traditional diet of the Spokane Tribe, whose members once ate up to two pounds a day. Spokane is the first place in the state to navigate the permitting process under the tighter restrictions. Under the Trump administration, however, the EPA is in the process of revisiting the pollution standards, despite opposition from the Washington Department of Ecology.
For now, the city of Spokane and other dischargers are moving ahead on cleanup by building new wastewater infrastructure and treatment technology and evaluating sources and potential solutions to PCB pollution in the river. The efforts at the Kaiser Trentwood aluminum plant also show the gap between treatment technologies and pollution levels. When the system runs efficiently, engineers believe it can remove about three-quarters of the PCBs from the water.
PCBs are still inadvertently produced, and cleaning them up forces regulators and polluters to grapple with knotty environmental paradoxes. Take, for example, Inland Empire Paper, a local papermaking company on the banks of the Spokane River. Great billows of steam vent from the factory as paper-rolling presses turn bales of recycled paper and piles of wood chips into finished products. That would have international consequences, as many PCBs come from products manufactured in India and other parts of Asia.
Krapas said some companies, like Apple and Hewlett Packard, have adopted standards that require far lower PCB levels in the products they purchase and produce, and that inadvertent production of PCBs is largely avoidable.
Bioremediation, the practice of using plants, fungi, and microbes to break down pollutants, is an important part of many environmental cleanup efforts. Their experiment is part of a project, funded by the toxics task force and run by the Lands Council, that looks at using natural systems to break down PCBs. It was started after an earlier study showed some potential to use bioremediation to break down PCBs.
Unlike the previous study, which used a specific fungus, the students and their advisers are trying to supercharge a wide array of native microbes with nitrogen to get them to chew up the toxic PCBs. That will make their fix specific to Spokane. Biology teacher Dan Shay compares it to trapping a group of students in a buffet restaurant for a year. PCBs are the shoe leather in this scenario, he explained: one of the hardest chemicals for microorganisms to digest and therefore, the last course in a bioremediation meal.
That means monitoring how quickly things like motor oil and diesel fuel disappear from the soil. And once those other pollutants are removed, the microorganisms will be left to chew on the PCBs. While environmental advocates and the Spokane Tribe continue to pursue strict pollution regulations, much of the momentum on PCB cleanup has come from working together and trying to solve problems outside the courtroom.
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