Toxic Chemicals and Heavy Metals in the Spokane River

A Public Guide

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Fish in the Spokane River Safe to Eat?

The Washington Department of Health issued a PCB fish advisory in 2008. See page 8 for details. There is also a statewide mercury advisory. Women who are or plan to become pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children should not eat northern pikeminnow and limit largemouth and smallmouth bass to two meals per month.

Is the Water Quality Safe for Swimming, Water Sports, and Recreating on Beaches?

Yes. Between 2009 and 2013, however, there are five remaining shoreline recreational locations between the Idaho border and Upriver Dam scheduled for cleanup of lead, arsenic, and other metals. See page 9 for cleanup locations and page 13 for more details. For general hygiene and safety, it is always safest to wash hands, face, feet and toys before eating and/or leaving a beach. Particularly follow this advice with children between the Idaho border and Upriver Dam. These areas may contain elevated concentrations of metals in non-developed shoreline areas not address by cleanup activities.

What Additional Precautions Can I Take?

Always wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved personal floatation device, use proper clothing and equipment and know your limits when on the river. Observe warning signs, and never boat immediately above or below a dam. Dispose of waste properly and help keep our shorelines clean by removing litter. Leave habitat the way you found it.

Who Sets and Enforces Water Quality Regulations?

The federal Clean Water Act authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set water quality standards for all contaminants in surface waters. EPA partners with states and tribes to implement the Clean Water Act with pollution control programs, water cleanup plans (TMDLs), permits for wastewater treatment and other facilities, and other tools. The Washington Department of Ecology is the lead state agency responsible for working with EPA to enforce the Clean Water Act in Washington.

Who is Responsible for Sediment Cleanup and Restoration Activities?

PCB cleanup work behind Upriver Dam was supervised by Ecology and funded by Avista Development, Inc. and Kaiser Aluminum as part of a settlement agreement. EPA (Superfund) and Washington State funded cleanup and restoration of the Starr Road recreation area. Cleanup actions at seven additional shoreline sites between the Idaho border and Upriver Dam are being funded by the State of Washington and implemented by Ecology. As cleanup and restoration activities proceed, sources of funding and responsibility for carrying out actions are expected to vary.

Who is Paying for Investigations?

Ecology is currently taking the lead in identifying sources and pathways of PCBs, PBDEs and dioxins/furans entering the Spokane River. Many agencies and stakeholders will be engaged in this process and, depending on findings and needs, may contribute to further investigations.

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