U.S. EPA proposes TMDL for PCBs for Spokane River

May 17, 2024
The U.S. EPA is accepting public comment on a proposed plan to limit PCBs in the Spokane River Basin.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a plan to reduce the amount of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the Spokane River Basin. The EPA is now accepting public comment on the proposed plan.

PCBs in surface water readily accumulate in aquatic organisms. This means that even small amounts of PCBs in the environment can pose health problems for people who consume aquatic organisms like fish.

The EPA’s plan establishes a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for PCBs—often referred to as a pollution budget—to protect human health and aquatic life along the Spokane River Basin and Little Spokane rivers of Washington. This highlights the need to continue to reduce PCBs from both industries and communities in the Spokane Valley.

PCBs were banned in 1979, but they’re still widely used by multiple industries to lubricate and cool equipment. Some of that equipment, like electrical transformers manufactured before the ban, are sources of the chemicals found in the 100 river miles of the Spokane River Watershed.

The EPA is developing these Total Maximum Daily Loads to fulfill an obligation under a consent decree between the EPA and two plaintiffs—the Sierra Club and the Center for Environmental Law and Policy.

The resulting TMDLs are aimed at restoring water quality by determining the allowable amount of pollutants from all sources of PCBs in the watershed.

The EPA will be issuing the final Spokane River TMDL for PCBs by September 30, 2024.

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