Today is
[Portal ID #1962]

Department of Ecology
Committees, Boards, and Workgroups

Spokane River Clean Water Permitting Process

Clean water requirements for the Spokane River include strict limitations on pollutants like phosphorus and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These limits make permitting wastewater treatment facilities complicated, especially for PCBs because they are widespread, persistent, and found in many products.

Permits for five wastewater treatment facilities that discharge into the Spokane River have been administratively extended and need to be reviewed and reissued to include the new clean water requirements. In November 2016, PCB water quality standards for the Spokane River changed from 170 parts per quadrillion to seven parts per quadrillion.

We're currently working with the river community to evaluate the tools available to reissue the permits and identify the path forward for a clean Spokane River. 

The strategy for issuing new permits to meet requirements for PCBs include:

  • Developing agreements with each facility that outlines milestones and benchmarks for reducing PCBs.
  • Investigating treatment technology and cost information associated with meeting water quality standards.
  • Continuing to identify and reduce sources of PCBs through the Spokane River Regional Toxics Task Force.
  • Using a step-by-step approach over time to achieve the highest attainable condition in the river until ultimately meeting water quality standards.

Latest Meetings

Open house on PCB Variances for the Spokane River - April 8, 2020

The March 24 and March 26 open house events have been rescheduled to April 8. We will instead offer these as morning and evening online webinars.

We are hosting an open house to share information on the upcoming water quality standards rulemaking for PCB variances on the Spokane River. The purpose of this open house is to revisit general information about variances and background on PCBs from previous workshops. Our goal is to provide the public with information that will assist with the upcoming review of the draft rule. We expect to have draft rule language and supporting documents available for public comment in May 2020, at which time we will hold public hearings.

During the open house, we will cover:

  • An overview of PCBs in the environment
  • The water quality standard for PCBs and how we measure it
  • What is a variance and how does it affect compliance with water quality standards?
  • How we evaluated each individual discharger variance application
  • What to expect during the formal public comment period

There are two opportunities to attend this open house:

Morning webinar
April 8, 2020, 10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Register for the morning webinar 

Evening webinar
April 8, 2020, 6 - 8:30 p.m.
Register for the evening webinar

Our intent for holding the open houses is to provide transparent and easy to understand information on what a variance from the water quality standards means, and why we are considering PCB variances for the Spokane River.

If you have an opportunity, please view our informational posters in advance of the open house webinars. We are hoping to gather your questions prior to the webinar to make it easier for everyone to participate. Please email any questions about the Spokane River PCB Variances to swqs@ecy.wa.gov. We will address them during the Q & A portion and will allow time for additional questions that come up during the presentation.

Workshop on PCB Variances for Spokane River - Nov. 14, 2019

We held a workshop on Nov. 14, 2019, about the next steps in the variance process.  We covered a general overview, updates on the rulemaking process, and the current status of applications.


Spokane River Permitting Tools Workshop #2: Decoding the Variance Process; Monday, November 5, 2018

  • Agenda
  • See Documents at bottom of page for printable versions (Full slides and 3-slides/page, as available) for today's Workshop.

We held a second Permitting Tools Workshop on Monday, Nov. 5, 2018.

This workshop focused on:

  • How to submit a request for a Variance (requires agency rule-making)
  • Details about the submittal package requirements;
  • The projected schedule for the completion of the rule-making process; and,
  • How the variance process affects the permit cycle.

 For more information, contact Karl Rains at (509) 329-3601 or karl.rains@ecy.wa.gov.



  • Develop and finalize agreed orders with permitted wastewater facilities.
  • Explore permitting tools such as the variance and compliance schedules.
  • Evaluate treatment technologies and associated costs.
  • Continue source reduction.
  • Spokane County, Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District, and Kaiser Trentwood next-level treatment online.


  • Prepare for possible rulemaking associated with a variance, which requires Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval.
  • Continue gathering and evaluating required data for permitting tools.
  • Continue source reduction.
  • Develop and approve a plan for Kaiser Trentwood groundwater cleanup.
  • City of Spokane and Inland Empire Paper Co. next-level treatment online (2020).


  • Develop and issue new permits.
  • Continue source reduction.
  • Evaluate progress towards achieving highest attainable condition and meeting water quality standards.


  • Develop and issue new permits
  • Continue source reduction.
  • Evaluate progress towards achieving highest attainable condition and meeting water quality standards.


Past meeting information

Spokane Permitting Workshop, March 14, 2018

Water Quality Permitting Tools Workshop, Aug. 8, 2018

Looking downriver from Islands Lagoon in Spokane Valley


 File NameFile SizeDescriptionCategoryDate Added
Spokane River Permit Tools Workshop #2 - Agenda.pdf 440.1 KB Workshop #2 Agenda
Workshop #2 Agenda
None 11/02/18 01:47 PM
Spokane River Permit Tools Workshop #2 - Jenkins_Full.pdf 876.4 KB
None 11/05/18 10:34 AM
Spokane River Permit Tools Workshop #2 - Niemi_Notes.pdf 1.5 MB
None 11/05/18 10:35 AM
Spokane River Permit Tools Workshop #2 - Niemi_Full.pdf 1.5 MB
None 11/05/18 10:35 AM
Spokane River Permit Tools Workshop #2 - Intro_Full.pdf 549.8 KB
None 11/05/18 10:35 AM
Spokane River Permit Tools Workshop #2 - Conklin_Full.pdf 535.3 KB
None 11/05/18 10:36 AM
Spokane River Permit Tools Workshop #2 - Intro_Notes.pdf 511.3 KB
None 11/05/18 10:36 AM
VarianceWorkshop_All.pdf 3 MB presentation
#NEW_CATEGORY# 11/14/19 08:30 AM
Economic Questions to consider_brand.pdf 210.6 KB
None 11/14/19 08:31 AM

Currently loading

Please Wait...