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[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.



  • 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.

Upcoming meeting announcement

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.

You are invited to join us at our second Permitting Tools Workshop on Monday, November 5, 2018 from 1 — 4 p.m. at CenterPlace Regional Event Center in Spokane Valley. This workshop follows our August 8 Permitting workshop. Based on feedback, Ecology is holding an additional workshop with a focus on the details associated with the Variance Tool.

You may also attend via WebEx by registering here.

This workshop will focus 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.

Additional details regarding the agenda will be provided closer to the date of the Workshop. For more information, contact Karl Rains at (509) 329-3601 or karl.rains@ecy.wa.gov.

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


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