Pollution Control Board Rules on Spokane Waste Treatment Plant

By Steve Jackson

The Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board has ruled in a case involving Spokane County’s newest Waste Treatment Plant that challenged the facility’s discharge permit.
The local Sierra Club and the Center for Environmental Law and Policy argued the discharge permit did not restrict the amount of PCB’s that are discharged into the river. PCB’s were banned in the 1970’s, due to human health concerns, but the chemicals, which were used in many products, are still in the environment.
Tuesday, the State Pollution Control hearing board ruled that adjustments need to be made to the treatment plants permits.
John Osborne is with the Sierra Club, who hailed the ruling a verdict against the county:
Osborne: “The board found that the lack of a limit on PCB discharges was a violation of the clean water act, and that other terms of the permit were vague and unenforceable,”

And Osborne characterized the action of the ruling board as pulling the permit to operate the plant:
Osborne: “Without a permit, the county can not continue to send effluent into the river.”
But that’s not the exact read of the new County Utility Chief, Kevin Cook, who says the plant will not have to shut down, but continue to operate, while the permits are modified.

Cook: "The permits will have to revised to includes deadlines and mandatory requirements, but we will continue to discharge, and we feel this is a win for the county.”
Department of Ecology Spokeswoman Brook Beeler says the original plan called for aggressive monitoring of PCB’s during the first five years of plant operation:
Beeler: “That scientific analysis certainly takes time so the new decision and the modifications that we are going to be looking into is going to strengthen that plan, so it’s going to take us a little more time to be able to determine what the PCHB decision is asking us to do."

Her referenced to PCHB is the Pollution Control Hearings Board, Beeler feels the initial reaction to the lengthy ruling is a positive one from her agency.

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