After over a decade of planning, $147 million in capital spending and more than just a little wrangling with the state Department of Ecology, Spokane County was finally set to open its new regional water reclamation facility on Thursday.
Ground was broken on acreage near Freya and Trent in Spokane two and a half years ago, and the project was finished under budget and approximately two months ahead of schedule, said Martha Lou Wheatley-Billeter, county spokeswoman.
Thursday’s dedication was to have included guest speakers and local officials such as Spokane County commissioners, the Eastern Regional director of the Department of Ecology, the president of CH2M Hill Water Business Group -- which built and will operate the plant for Spokane County -- and other local dignitaries, including Spokane Valley Mayor Tom Towey.
A water-quality discharge permit was issued to the county on Tuesday by DOE, which will all the plant to begin operation. Effluent will be sent from the sewage-treatment plant to the Spokane River to the Spokane River at the Havana Street outfall pipe, Wheatley-Billeter said.
The county used to send its wastewater to the city of Spokane for treatment, however capacity at that facility was expected to be reached in coming years. If that were to happen, the region could have been faced with a building moratorium.
The facility will largely serve the Spokane Valley area. It has a capacity to handle 8 million gallons each day and is expected to meet treatment levels that are some of the most stringent in the United States.
That hasn’t stopped, however, criticism by the Upper Columbia River Group of the Sierra Club that states plans for the Spokane River cleanup are “flawed” and that issuing a permit to Spokane County is “illegal” under the federal Clean Water Act.
However, experts believe the new plant will reduce phosphorus and other nutrient pollution in the river by 99 percent or more. DOE administrators say the permit conforms to the Clean Water Act.
“The delivery of this permit takes us from planning meeting and talking to actually cleaning up the Spokane River and Lake Spokane,” said Ted Sturdevant, DOE director. “The process has been a long, arduous one, but here we are today seeing all that work pay off.”
No one was more pleased to receive the permit than Bruce Rawls, Spokane County utilities director.
“We have worked for 12 years to provide additional regional wastewater treatment capacity,” Rawls said. “This new water reclamation facility will help protect water quality in the Spokane Valley aquifer, will help improve water quality in the Spokane River and will provide 20 to 50 years of regional growth.”
The permit also requires the county to participate in the Regional Toxics Task Force, which is charged with guiding work toward reducing pollutants, including polychlorinated biphenyls and other toxic pollution.
In other news, Spokane County commissioners recognized outgoing Spokane Valley City Council Member Bill Gothmann on Tuesday with a certificate of appreciate for his five years on the Housing and Community Development Advisory Committee, where he served two terms as chairman. Gothmann chose not to run for re-election this fall and his Position 6 council seat will go to Ben Wick, who defeated Marilyn Cline in the general election.
“Thank you so much for the certificate of appreciation,” Gothmann told the commissioners. “Keep up the great work you’ve been doing.”
All three commissioners had kind words for Gothmann.
“You a truly a class act,” Commissioner Todd Mielke told Gothmann. “Many would do well to follow your lead.”
Finally, the commissioners unanimously approved the filing of the final plat of Ponderosa Ridge Phase 1. However, until the final plat document is filed in the Spokane County Auditor’s Office, the subdivision has only been granted preliminary plat status and is subject to expiration.