Dissolved Oxygen TMDL Implementation Begins
September 28, 2010
Convening the Spokane River Dissolved Oxygen TMDL Implementation Advisory Committee (Advisory Committee) represents a critical milestone in Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) efforts to meet Spokane River water quality standards for dissolved oxygen. TMDL stands for total maximum daily load and is also referred to as a Water Quality Improvement Plan.
Ecology asked the Spokane River Forum to help convene and administer committee activities. The committee’s first meeting was September 22, 2010., More than 16 stakeholders from Washington and Idaho representing state and local agencies, business and industry and conservation groups are represented on the committee.
To access meeting materials and related information visit www.spokaneriver.net/dotmdl. The Forum will also be sending out e-mail updates regarding meeting times and posting of new materials. E-mail email@example.com if you would like to receive these updates.
The purpose of the advisory committee is to enable Ecology to provide and receive feedback on Spokane River dissolved oxygen TMDL implementation. This includes Ecology’s first effort in the state to create a water quality trading framework. This means dischargers could trade among themselves or with others (e.g., a farmer) to find the most economical way to reduce phosphorus and other dissolved oxygen-related pollutants from entering the river. Trading efforts would be in addition to dischargers using the best available technology to reduce phosphorus that is directly discharged into the river.
At the first meeting, Dave Moore, Ecology’s point person to coordinate the water quality improvement plan, expressed his hope for “frank, open discussions that can lead to innovative and collaborative solutions.” Kelly Susewind, Ecology’s Water Quality Program Manager, followed up by saying “Ecology is committed to meeting regularly. We want to establish momentum in our efforts to collaboratively develop trading guidelines and discuss other implementation issues as they arise.”
When fully implemented, the improvement plan will bring the Spokane River into compliance with water quality standards for dissolved oxygen. Dischargers will have up to 10 years to comply with new discharge limits specified in the water quality improvement plan.
Getting to the point of implementation has been a lengthy and sometime contentious 12 year journey. Last spring these efforts culminated in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approving Washington’s dissolved oxygen TMDL for the Spokane River.
Achieving these water quality standards will be an extraordinary challenge, one which will see phosphorous limits for industrial and municipal discharges being among the most stringent in the country. Specifically, phosphorus pollution from industrial and municipal pipes will need to be reduced by approximately 80,000 pounds of phosphorus a year. Phosphorus encourages algae growth, which then depletes oxygen from the water that fish need to live.
Although implementation has begun, Idaho dischargers (Post Falls, Hayden Lake Sewer Board and Coeur d’Alene) are challenging EPA’s approval of the DO TMDL. Idaho dischargers contend that EPA permits to regulate phosphorus reduction at wastewater treatment plants pose an unfair burden to them.