December 2, 2009 in Idaho

Group says it will sue city over river PCBs

Spokane must reduce discharge, center says
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Persistent pollutant

The manufacture of PCBs was banned in the 1970s, but many of the toxic compounds remain in the soil. During heavy rainstorms, storm water inundates the city’s sewer system, leading to untreated water flowing into the river.

Spokane’s antiquated sewer system is pumping polychlorinated byphenyls, or PCBs, into the Spokane River, contaminating the river’s fish and violating the federal Clean Water Act, the Center for Justice said Tuesday in a 60-day notice of intent to sue the city over PCB releases.

Rick Eichstaedt, an attorney for the public interest law firm, called the notice a “regrettable but necessary step.” He said the city should be working harder to reduce the discharge of PCBs, which accumulate in fish tissue and have been linked to cancer and other human health problems.

“We believed we were engaged in constructive dialogue on these issues with the Center for Justice,” Mayor Mary Verner said Tuesday afternoon. “Our attorneys obviously need to evaluate this new development.”

In 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency identified the city as the largest continuing source of PCBs in the river. Health advisories warn people to limit the number of fish they eat from the river.

Eichstaedt said he hoped to reach a cooperative settlement with the city, similar to a 2008 agreement that reduced raw sewage discharges into the river and Latah Creek.

Tuesday’s notice of intent to sue was filed by Gonzaga Law School’s Environmental Law Clinic on behalf of the Center for Justice’s Riverkeeper program.

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