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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Neighbors resist plans to build wastewater plant

East Central Neighborhood residents mounted heated resistance Wednesday evening at a meeting to discuss plans to build a new Spokane County sewage treatment plant in their neighborhood.

Neighbors said that locating the wastewater treatment plant in their area would preclude the badly needed economic boost that business development on the site could spawn. Some expressed worries about odors, environmental damage to the Spokane River and accidents at the treatment plant.

“Should an accident like the one two days ago occur, where the sludge went into the river, where would the sludge go?” asked Joe Griffin, one of about 50 people who attended the meeting at East Central Community Center.

The Monday accident Griffin referenced resulted in the death of one worker, injuries to three others and 200,000 gallons of sewage spilling out of a tank at the city of Spokane’s wastewater treatment plant onto the ground and into the Spokane River. That plant is in northwest Spokane.

The proposed Spokane County facility wouldn’t be located near the river – effluent would have to be pumped to the river for disposal – so anything that spilled would end up on the ground, said Bruce Rawls, Spokane County’s utilities director, who added that such accidents rarely occur.

Spokane County is now considering two sites for its plant, both in the East Central Neighborhood — the former Stockyards property near Freya and Trent and the old Playfair Race Course just north of Sprague near Altamont.

The proposed new facility would treat 10 million gallons of sewage a day, serving unincorporated Spokane County, the city of Spokane Valley and the city of Spokane. It would cost about $100 million to build.

The two sites are the best options because of their size, proximity to the river and locations in relation to those who would use the system, Rawls said. Without the facility, the region would run out of sewage treatment capacity by 2009, he added.

Neither of the proposed sites sits well with neighbors who would like to see the land developed into parks or business centers. Most at the meeting spoke out in particular against building the plant on the Playfair property.

East Central resident Al Bibbins said putting the plant at Playfair would hurt his neighborhood, even as people there struggle to improve it.

“People already believe East Central isn’t a nice place to be,” Bibbins said. “A comment that was made to me: ‘They’re putting the trash out where it belongs.’ ”

The city of Spokane recently purchased the Playfair property, and Spokane Mayor Jim West said the site might be used for city sports facilities and fields. But that doesn’t mean it’s being ruled out as a wastewater treatment site.

“Odor is a great concern, and the existing plant on the river, even with the technology there, still has odors,” said Jerry Numbers, East Central Neighborhood Council chairman.

“I would rather see a business park,” said Janice Resch, a member of the neighborhood council.

Resch said that the construction of a proposed new Interstate 90 interchange in the neighborhood could disrupt some businesses that might relocate to the 60-acre Playfair site if the plant isn’t constructed there.

The public can submit comments to Spokane County on the draft environmental impact statement for the sites until May 24.

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