Sewage takes center stage - Coeur d'Alene Press: Editorial

Sewage takes center stage

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Posted: Sunday, September 25, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 10:55 am, Fri Nov 16, 2012.

Take all the acronyms, the scientific formulas, the political agendas at cross purposes and the bitter cross-state line disputes.

Flush it all down the toilet.

And show up at an important public meeting this Wednesday at 5 p.m. in the Post Falls Senior Center.

Yes, the issue is about your sewer bill, to put it succinctly. But it's about much more than that, too.

If the federal Environmental Protection Agency moves ahead with plans to clamp the most restrictive water quality standards in the nation on North Idaho, your sewer bill doubling or tripling in the next couple of years could be the least of your concerns.

Nobody's crying "wolf" when they suggest that these standards would force a building moratorium across Post Falls, Coeur d'Alene and Hayden. Because Washington state doesn't like the amount of phosphorus our communities discharge into the Spokane River and end up in Long Lake, we may collectively need to ante up some $150 million to try to meet unprecedented water quality standards, only to fail at that and still see the already bleak local economic landscape become even more barren.

While the cities are slugging this one out in court, some private citizens have stepped to the waterfront - sorry, the forefront - and arranged a public meeting with representatives of state and federal environmental agencies. Only there's a problem: The feds have now decided not to show up.

That's where we hope you come in. Whether you're motivated by big sewer bills or Big Brother, we encourage you to attend and speak up at the meeting Wednesday so the feds will hear us all the way from Seattle to the west and Washington, D.C., to the east.

For our part, we resent the fact that our neighbors in Washington are trying to raise Idaho's water standards far beyond the standards they're willing to apply to themselves. And all because their Long Lake has a tiny bit more phosphorus than they'd like to see. Experts estimate that with the $150 million investment on this side of the state line, there would only be a 3 percent impact on Long Lake phosphorus levels. In our view, those numbers don't add up.

Of far greater concern to us is the likelihood of economic mayhem brought on by our communities' inability to meet the water quality standards Washington demands, standards that nobody anywhere has attained and no technology exists to support. And that's why we offer this sincere suggestion, and not just a complaint.

Washington has an environmental problem. Idaho has a financial problem. If Washington will fix our financial problem, maybe we can make their environmental problem go away.

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4 comments:

  • pearl posted at 5:41 am on Tue, Nov 22, 2011.

    pearl Posts: 10

    Do what Europe finally did to clean up their water ways. Get rid of Sewer treatment facilities and convert back to Septic systems for all properties developed and develop plans to convert existing systems to septic drainage fields rather than PUC sewer systems.federal resume writers

     
  • inclined posted at 5:54 pm on Thu, Oct 13, 2011.

    inclined Posts: 682

    Jeffrey Wherley. It may be, in light of these questions addressed to the EPA via Governor Otter by Len Crosby, that the septic systems are themselves a part of the problem. This letter was made available at the public meeting.
    “ Under the current dissolved oxygen permits, why were the waste load allocations for the Cities of Spokane and Spokane County, so much higher than the waste load allocations for any of the Idaho dischargers?
    • Is it possible the population projections for Spokane and Spokane County considered in the waste load allocations for the dissolved oxygen permits are overstated?
    • What would it take to re-evaluate Post Falls, Coeur d’Alene and Hayden’s population and economic growth to make the allocations more equitable?
    • Because the majority of the water flowing into Long Lake comes from Idaho, why were the dischargers in Idaho only allowed 16% of the total discharge?
    • Has the impact of decades of septic discharge from the area surrounding Long Lake been taken into consideration in addressing this problem and, in conjunction with the limits on TMDL are corrective actions being required of the folks whose septic systems have a direct impact on this problem by the State of Washington?
    • What goal does the State of Washington hope to achieve by implementing the current dissolved oxygen permits?
    • Why are there no permits being drafted for the current septic discharge from those living adjacent to Long Lake, when that is the point source of the heaviest phosphorus discharge?
    • What other communities are currently producing a phosphorus discharge of 42ppb or 50ppb and what technology are they using to achieve these levels?
    • In light of the current economic situation and the high unemployment rate in North Idaho and Eastern Washington, have those who are setting these standards completed a realistic cost/ benefit analysis of the economic impact of the regulations and the costs associated with meeting the required standards?”

     
  • Riverlawyer posted at 8:29 pm on Mon, Sep 26, 2011.

    Riverlawyer Posts: 1

    "For our part, we resent the fact that our neighbors in Washington are trying to raise Idaho's water standards far beyond the standards they're willing to apply to themselves. "

    That statement is incorrect., The dischargers on both side of the border need to comply with the standards. The numbers are identical -- about 50 part per billion of phosphorus discharge.

    Those standards are established pursuant to the Clean Water Act to ensure that our waterways our safe -- i.e., no toxic blue-green algae blooms in Lake Spokane. Neither EPA nor the State of Washington has discretion to ignore the standards.

    Moreover, the folks on the Washington side are doing more to address water quality -- banning phosphorus in fertilizer and dishwasher detergent and restricting development within shoreline buffer, instead of fertilized lawn right up to the river's edge. These are all things that are good for the Spokane River and could help implement the CDA Basin Plan (and avoid eventual Superfund listing for the Lake).

    If folks in Idaho want parity, it is time to step up to the plate.

     
  • Jeffrey Wherley posted at 2:56 am on Sun, Sep 25, 2011.

    Jeffrey Wherley Posts: 3969

    Do what Europe finally did to clean up their water ways. Get rid of Sewer treatment facilities and convert back to Septic systems for all properties developed and develop plans to convert existing systems to septic drainage fields rather than PUC sewer systems.

    Spreading sewage over large areas equally is less damaging to the environment than concentrating it in areas. Squat and leave it, is cleaner than Collect and dump it. The only reason we haven't done it here,is, less PUC's = less Government control. Just like Why Wind and solar Generation Farms, instead of at new development? Less PUC's.

     
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