In 2007 the Washington State Legislature funded the Urban Waters Initiative program to look for sources of pollution to the Spokane River. Of particular concern are PCBs, PBDEs (flame retardants), dioxins/furans and metals that are found in fish, water and river sediment.
For the Spokane River, finding the source of these pollutants began with assessing 14 locations within the City of Spokane’s storm drainage system. The results showed an outfall (drain pipe) for two catchment areas had the highest levels of PCBs, PBDEs and dioxins/furans. See map.
Finding the source of toxic chemicals coming through this outfall will be complicated. As the map shows, several storm drains feed into this outfall over a broad distance. Personnel from them Washington Department of Ecology will act like detectives to sample storm drains until they find one or more sources. Once a
source is found, cleanup can begin.
While personnel are finding pollutants in the drain system, the Spokane Regional Health District is working with businesses in these catchment areas to make sure hazardous waste is being properly managed and disposed. Specialists are asking businesses that use hazardous materials (like auto mechanic shops and printing companies) to examine their operations. If specialists find a practice that needs improvement, they will work with the owner to better manage these pollutants.