City Unveils $310M Water Plan to Public

By Paige Browning

A proposed clean water plan would divert an unprecedented amount of pollutants from the Spokane River, but cost taxpayers about 300-million dollars over five years. The mayor’s administration and city council are seeking public input on the Integrated Clean Water Plan on Monday.
 
The plan is a response to Clean Water Act requirements and city regulations. City Utilities spokesperson Marlene Feist highlights the three elements of the cleanup framework.
 
Feist: “To reduce overflows from combined sewers to the river, also to make improvements at the wastewater treatment plant. And then we’re also looking at things like storm water which also contributes pollution to the river.”
 
The city will construct tanks that hold 100-million gallons or more of storm water to divert it from the river, and green infrastructure that sucks up runoff. Two tanks are in construction now. These are just part of a comprehensive plan to remove PCBs, phosphorus, zinc, lead, and bacteria from the Spokane River and Lake Spokane. The price tag of the new plan is 310-million dollars, over five years. City leaders hope to secure 62-million dollars from the state. Feist says the rest will come from ratepayers. As far as the cost…
 
Feist: “The mayor has committed as a city to limit annual utility increases to inflation, and we’re going to be able to deliver this plan under that commitment. So we will deliver a plan with only inflationary increases.”
 
Aside from cost, Water advocate… Rachael Pascal Osborn says there are reasons for concern. Osborn says Mayor Verner’s administration proposed tanks so big that water would never discharge. But the city is allowed one discharge per year, and Mayor Condon will allow it to happen with smaller, less costly, tanks. Here’s what Osborn wants to know...
 
Pascal Osborn: “Is it possible to actually just eliminate raw sewage discharges into the river all together. A second question would be is where are these tanks going to be placed. You know I’ve heard suggestions that there may be proposals to put them into city park lands.”
 
To learn more about the integrated clean water plan, and give public comment, you can attend a public open house Monday from 4:30-6:00, and at the city council meeting where its up for a first reading.
 
Copyright 2014 Spokane Public Radio
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