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Eye On Olympia

Electrasol smuggling?

The Senate on Wednesday passed a modified version of Rep. Timm Ormsby’s bill to sharply limit phosphates in automatic dishwashing detergents. Assuming that the House and governor agree, it would be the first state ban in the nation.

In the Senate version, the ban would be phased in, starting in Spokane, Clark and Whatcom counties in 2008. It would apply statewide in 2010.

The bill is aimed largely at the Spokane River, which is plagued by low oxygen levels due to decaying algae. Phosphates — a common ingredient in fertilizer — spur algae blooms. When the algae dies and rots, it eats up dissolved oxygen in the water. Result: dead fish.

The bill would restrict phosphates to half a percent or less, instead of the nearly 9 percent allowed now. The state passed identical restrictions for laundry detergent back in 1993.

Trade groups have lobbied hard against the ban, saying that they’ve been unable to find anything that works as well as phosphates for scrubbing dishes shiny clean. And it’s unclear how major manufacturers to a ban that, at least initially, would apply to just 3 of the state’s 39 counties.

That’s especially an open question in Vancouver, which is supplied by Oregon-based warehouses and distributors, local senators said.

“They are not going to supply product for one county,” said Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver. “…So we just won’t be able to get dishwashing soap in Clark County anymore. Gee, that’s really fair.”

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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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