Admittedly, it is difficult trying to explain to laypersons why the Spokane River TMDL is reasonably fair even though it seems a little tilted toward Washington’s polluters. But then we read an outstanding overview of the issues on the Spokane River Forum’s very informative website. With an issue-by-issue summary, in a point/counterpoint format, the Forum describes the issues raised by the Idaho polluters in their lawsuit, and what each side says about them. The whole article is well worth reading, even if still a bit technical. But on the fairness issue, it’s worth highlighting the discussion on a couple of points we hear raised over and over again:

Point: Idaho dischargers are being asked to remove more phosphorus from their water treatment plants effluent (what is discharged into the river) than Washington dischargers.

Counterpoint: Except for Kaiser (which has a lower limit), all dischargers have the same phosphorus limits based on a monthly average of 50 ug/L. What looks like Idaho being given a higher standard is based on using a seasonal vs. monthly statistical average. Idaho dischargers requested a seasonal average, thus lowering the limit to 36 ug/L. Sampling frequency and fluctuation in effluent quality causes the required seasonal average to be lower than the monthly average. EPA has stated that Idaho dischargers can return to using a monthly average.

Point: Population growth projections by 2027 factor into determining phosphorus reduction requirements. Figures used for Idaho underestimate growth, further exacerbating requirements that Idaho discharges consider too stringent.

Counterpoint: Idaho utilities supplied the figures used. A late request from Post Falls and Hayden to change their figures was refused. The figures were refused because they use growth projections well above the historic norm and are not consistent with projections used in Kootenai County’s comprehensive plan. If the projections are incorrect, they can be adjusted in the mandated 10 year assessment.

We’ll say it again. This just doesn’t seem worth litigating.

UPDATE 8/5: The Coeur d’Alene Press reports that the municipalities have spent a stunning $800,000 fighting the TMDL so far. And they’ve just gone to Court.