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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Inland Empire Paper exceeded permit limits for Spokane River pollution in 2016

File: The Spokane River flows quietly past the Inland Empire Paper plant in Millwood on April 5, 2010. (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)

A Millwood manufacturer discharged more pollution into the Spokane River than its permits allowed on several days in 2016.

Inland Empire Paper Co., which makes newsprint, reported the violations to the state. It is owned by Cowles Co., which publishes The Spokesman-Review.

Company officials took quick action to correct the problem, which resulted in higher than allowed limits of organic materials entering the river, said Brook Beeler, a Department of Ecology spokeswoman. No fines were levied against the company.

The Environment Washington Research and Policy Center highlighted the violations in a Monday report, which listed 55 violations of the federal Clean Water Act in the state from January 2016 to September 2017. In Washington, the law intended to keep the nation’s waters “fishable, swimmable and drinkable” is enforced by state officials.

“We’re concerned we’re having so many exceedances,” said Bruce Speight, Environment Washington’s executive director. “We’re undermining efforts to restore our waterways, in this case the Spokane River.”

Speight said Environment Washington is calling attention to Clean Water Act violations because the current administration is proposing deep cuts to enforcement budgets. In addition, a program allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to help states prevent and control water pollution is facing cuts of more than $75 million, he said.

On three occasions, Inland Empire Paper released treated wastewater into the river that exceeded allowed levels of organic materials, which affects oxygen levels for fish and wildlife.

The violations occurred in 2016, between March 31 and April 20, Inland Empire Paper officials told state regulators.

Changes in the company’s manufacturing process affected the plant’s wastewater treatment, according to Doug Krapas, the environmental manager. Inland Empire Paper made changes to bring the plant back into compliance with its permit limits, he said in correspondence with state regulators.