Sierra Club blasts Spokane County’s new wastewater treatment plant

Spokane County dedicated its waste water treatment facility Thursday, the largest public works project in county history. The Sierra Club, however, is already trying to stop the plant from operating.

The wastewater treatment facility is a fully-enclosed, odor-free plant that has been taking shape for the past two years near the intersection of Trent and Freya. Right now the operation has an 8 million gallon per day capacity but can be expanded to accommodate 20 years of growth.

The plant was built to handle the sewage that’s no longer going into septic tanks above the Rathdrum Prairie – Spokane Valley aquifer, and county commissioners say the treated water that will be discharged into the Spokane River meets or exceeds any ecology standards in North America.

“We also generate our own natural gas here in the form of methane gas and electricity and hot water to help heat the facility,” David Moss with Spokane County Public Works said.

The water treatment plant received its permit to begin discharging it’s effluent into the river on November 29th, but the Sierra Club is claiming the operation is illegal.

On Thursday, the Sierra Club filed the request and asked the Office of the Inspector General and the Washington State Auditor’s Office to investigate the state Department of Ecology and the EPA for illegal use of public funds to construct this sewage treatment plant.

John Osborn, the chair of the local Sierra Club Upper Columbia Group, says the Spokane River is the most polluted river in our state and the county knew that, but still moved forward with the plant.

“EPA and the Department of Ecology knew that and they knew that it’s illegal to add a pipe that would discharge pollution to a polluted river and nonetheless they went ahead and allowed this vast amount of public money to be spent,” Osborn said.

“This has been a long-term project to clean up the Spokane River and protect our aquifer, we have had a number of environmental groups who have signed off and believe that making improvements now is the best way to protect the aquifer and clean up the river,” Spokane County Commissioner Todd Mielke said.

Mielke added that the Sierra Club’s accusations are frustrating, adding that wastewater treatment plant is the most technologically advanced treatment facility in the United States.