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News Release: Federal judge asked to compel cleanup of cancer-causing chemicals in the Spokane river

News release

For immediate release

Federal judge asked to compel cleanup of cancer-causing chemicals in Spokane River

Lawsuit filed 10 years ago has not moved government to protect river, community

Link:  Motion for Summary Judgment

Spokane – River advocates are asking a federal judge to rule on their 10-year-old lawsuit to compel the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue a cleanup plan for one of Washington State’s most polluted rivers. The Spokane River is heavily polluted with PCBs. The lawsuit began in July 2011, when river advocates notified EPA of their intent to sue on behalf of the river unless EPA complied with federal law. In 2015, a federal judge ordered EPA to come up with a schedule for a cleanup plan. EPA has yet to write a cleanup plan for the Spokane River.

“The days of using the Spokane River as a chemical dump are over,” said Tom Soeldner of the Spokane River Team. “Year after year we waited patiently. Now we are asking the federal courts to stop polluters from flushing PCBs into the River.”

The federal Clean Water Act, passed in 1972, requires that polluted waters be fishable and swimmable. Although the State of Washington and EPA have been aware of PCB pollution for decades, the Spokane River still does not have a cleanup plan for PCBs.  Washington State Department of Ecology (WADOE) has continued to issue permits to polluters allowing them to dump PCBs into the Spokane River with no controls.

Washington Department of Health has issued a health advisory on PCB-contaminated fish in the Spokane River that has been in place for many years. PCBs have adverse effects on animals and human populations, including causing cancers in humans.  PCBs move up the food chain. Low concentrations in river water result in high concentrations in fish and other river life.

“‘Patience’ is the one word describing river advocates,” said John Allison, a Spokane River Team member. “Year after year we’ve waited. We’ve run out of hope and time with the agencies responsible for the Spokane River. We are returning to the courtroom to ask the federal judge to rule for the river and life.” 

“We need a clean, flowing water for the return of salmon,” said Kathy Dixon of the Spokane River Team. “Salmon along with our children and the river’s life are compelling reasons to comply with federal law and move forward with a cleanup plan.”

BACKGROUND:  10 YEARS OF LITIGATION TO CLEAN UP THE SPOKANE RIVER

PCBs are a group of industrial compounds associated with liver dysfunction and cancer, and are now banned in the United States. Washington State has formally recognized that the Spokane River is impaired for PCBs since 1996. When a river is listed for PCBs, the federal Clean Water Act requires binding cleanup targets before issuing any permits that would add more PCBs to the Spokane River.  Such a cleanup plan has never been completed for the Spokane River, but state and federal agencies have issued pollution permits anyway, failing to include numeric limits.

In 2011, the WADOE abandoned efforts to adopt a PCB cleanup plan, largely because of political opposition by Spokane River polluters, who would be required to reduce PCBs in effluent by up to 99% to meet both Washington State and Spokane Tribe water quality standards. These polluters include Inland Empire Paper, Kaiser, and the Liberty Lake, Spokane County, and City of Spokane sewage treatment plants. Instead, Ecology formed the Spokane River Toxics Task Force and required the polluters to participate, but also gave them control over the goals and activities of the Task Force.

Subsequently EPA issued discharge permits to three Idaho dischargers – the City of Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and Hayden Water & Sewer District – also not requiring PCB limits and also requiring participation in the Toxics Task Force.

Sierra Club and the Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CELP) filed a citizen lawsuit against EPA in 2011. The Spokane Tribe of Indians intervened in support of the citizen lawsuit, and the Department of Ecology, Spokane County and Kaiser intervened to defend EPA. U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Rothstein ruled in March 2015 that EPA’s failure to require a clean-up plan was an abuse of discretion and ordered EPA to submit a plan to the Court by July 2015.

EPA, Ecology, Kaiser, and Spokane County appealed the ruling, but EPA withdrew its appeal and submitted a document (which fails to require a cleanup plan) to the District Court. In April 2016 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the Ecology-County-Kaiser appeal in a one-paragraph decision. This meant that the legal challenge to the EPA’s “non-cleanup plan” document could move forward in District Court. 

During the past five years, Spokane River advocates have waited patiently for WADOE and EPA to complete a cleanup plan and begin its implementation.  In the absence of a cleanup plan, Sierra Club and CELP are now asking the federal judge to compel a cleanup plan under the law.

Sierra Club and CELP are represented by Marc Zemel of Smith & Lowney, a Seattle firm specializing in Clean Water Act litigation. The Spokane Tribe of Indians is represented by Ted Knight.

Contacts:

    Tom Soeldner, Spokane River Team  waltsoe@gmail.com 

    John Allison, Spokane River Team. jdallison@eahjlaw.com 


Washington Water Watch: May & June Edition

EDIT: The newsletter includes a save the date for Celebrate Waters. The date has since changed to September 9th.

Press Release

Dear Friends,

As we approach summer, we at CELP are keeping an eye on our water resources. This winter and spring we received plenty of snow that resulted in a heavy snowpack. Snowpack is a critical frozen reservoir that is released over the spring and summer as it melts. This spring much of the state has had warmer temperatures and below normal precipitation. Even with our current snowpack, there is concern that it will not last through the driest parts of the summer. Soil moisture is also an indicator of how much snowpack makes it into the rivers. In dry conditions the soil acts as a sponge and less snowmelt is added to stream flows. For our rivers that rely on precipitation more than snowpack there is even greater concern.

The Department of Ecology issued a drought advisory the end of May for most of Washington state, including all areas east of the Cascade Mountains, portions of southwest Washington and the Washington coast. The advisory acts as an early warning of possible drought to promote awareness and readiness. This is the first time the Department of Ecology has issued a drought advisory since it received the authority to do so from the Legislature in 2020. In the 2020 legislative session, CELP supported and advocated for Ecology’s drought preparedness bill. We are hopeful this action improves awareness among water users and increases readiness to respond to drought and conserve water.

As we all come out of the long COVID lock down, change and growth are coming to CELP. We are thrilled to introduce our new Water Policy Outreach Coordinator as well as our new Legal Intern. We are looking forward to them bringing new energy and ideas to our work. While we have adapted to working remotely, we are excited to be going back into the office soon and getting to work as a team in person. And this month we say goodbye to a long-time employee, our staff attorney Dan Von Seggern. We wish Dan the best in his new position, and we are excited to add a new staff attorney. 

In this issue you will find an update on our legislative success, an update on watershed restoration plans, a welcome to our new team members, water and fish in the news, a GiveBIG thank you, and a save the date for Celebrate Waters.

Sincerely,
Trish Rolfe

Executive Director

trolfe@celp.org

Read Full Newsletter: https://conta.cc/35hoGMu


Washington Water Watch: March Edition

Dear Friends,

It has now been over a year since the start of the pandemic, and all our lives have changed. We hope you and your loved ones have stayed safe and well. All of us at CELP have adapted to our new normal of working remotely and spending a lot of our time in Zoom meetings. But even with these challenges, we have been able to continue our important work to protect and restore Washington’s waters. We have participated in watershed restoration work groups finding solutions to restore stream flows impaired by new permit exempt wells, and we continue working with stakeholders to find solutions to water speculation and improve the water trust and banking systems.

We have also taken this time to find inspiration and think about how CELP accomplishes our mission of protecting, preserving, and restoring waters across the state now and into the future. We envision a water management system in Washington state that is more equitable and sustainable to support healthy ecosystems, thriving fish and wildlife, and robust communities. These are big goals, but with your help, we are ready to do the work.

In this issue you’ll find a wrap up of Clean & Abundant Water lobby week, an update on the legislative session, the Nooksack Indian Tribe and Lummi Nation’s webinar on adjudication, CELP’s letter to Ecology with concerns over Crown Columbia’s application for an area-wide water permit, water and fish in the news, and appreciation for our members.

Sincerely,

Trish Rolfe

Executive Director

Read the full newsletter here.


Washington Water Watch: Jan. & Feb. Edition

February 16th 2021 

Happy New Year! We are starting the new year with a new administration, and with it hope for federal progress on clean and abundant water, strengthening tribal treaty rights, and modernizing the Columbia River Treaty.  

Photo of a winding road through snow and trees taken from an aerial view.

Here at home, we started the year with an atmospheric river soaking the pacific northwest. Seattle had the wettest start to the year in history. Olympia and Hoquiam also broke rainfall records in the first few days of the year. Now in February, snowstorms have moved across the state blanketing Seattle and the Puget Sound area. Snowpack in the Olympics and Cascades are at normal or slightly above normal levels. This is all good news for our stream flows for now. 

Everyone at CELP wants to say a big THANK YOU to all of our supporters. We know 2020 was a difficult year for many people, organizations and businesses and we are immensely grateful for your donations, time, ideas, and dedication to protecting our waters. With your support, we were able to face challenges head on and continue our work protecting our waters. We look forward to what we will accomplish this year together.

In this issue you’ll find introductions of our new board members and changes in board leadership, information on the 2021 legislative session and the bills we are tracking, salmon in the news, Rachael Osborn’s paper reflecting on the Water Resources Act of 1971, a call for applications for our 2021 legal internship, and congratulations to our 2020 Water Hero honoree and longtime friend Bob Anderson. 

We are hopeful for the future. As we move forward this year, our priorities are getting Streamflow Restoration Plans approved and getting water restoration and mitigation projects in these plans funded. We are also working to help get the adjudications of the Nooksack and Colville watersheds started and working with Ecology to restart instream flow setting for unprotected watersheds. These are big plans, but with your continued support we can make great strides to achieve them. 


Sincerely,

Trish Rolfe

Executive Director

trolfe@celp.org

Read the full newsletter here: https://conta.cc/3qstIii


Washington Water Watch: November Edition

As the year approaches its end, we have all had to rethink how we do many things including work, school, birthdays and holidays. But that hasn’t stopped us from doing our work to protect and restore our river flows through outreach, policy work and litigation. Much of the year we have been working through the watershed planning process to come up with plans to mitigate impairment of instream flows from permit exempt wells. This process has taken 2 years, but hopefully it will have a positive impact on our rivers.

 But there is so much we need to do. Many rivers and streams around the state still lack basic protections, and endangered salmon and steelhead still face an uphill battle for recovery in part because of high river temperatures as a result of low flows. And climate change will continue to challenge how we manage our water resources.

 In this issue you’ll find an update on dam removals and proposals in the Northwest, information on our CLE Winter Workshop now being hosted as three virtual workshops, Water Stories, Giving Tuesday, and the 7th annual One River, Ethics Matter conference. 

CELP has a great team to do this work, but we can’t do it alone. We rely on donations from our members and supporters, and this year a generous supporter has offered a match to all year end donations up to $5,000. You can help us reach our goal and end the year strong by donating on our secure website, www.celp.org

Sincerely,

Trish Rolfe,

Executive Director

Read the full Newsletter here.


Washington Water Watch: August Edition

Dear friends of CELP,

As the summer winds down in this crazy year, I hope you all got a chance to get out and recreate on Washington’s amazing rivers and streams, a great way to recharge from the stress we are all experiencing. These waters are the life blood of Washington that should be protected and celebrated by all. But sadly, there are many who only see our waterways as a resource to be exploited harming fish and the public who rely on them. The impacts from Climate Change are only making a dire situation even worse. 

That’s why CELP continues our important work to protect, preserve, and restore Washington’s waters now and for future generations. But we can’t do it alone. We rely heavily on support from individuals like you, so if you are able please support CELP’s important work by donating on our website: www.celp.org

In spite of our work, sometimes our efforts fail, and that happened with our challenge to the flawed summer flow in the Spokane River Instream Flow Rule. The State Supreme Court ruled against us, and now the people and businesses in Spokane are the real losers. The Department of Ecology can now issue water rights that will drop the flow in the river to drought levels during the summer, making recreation on the river almost impossible.

In this issue you will find more information on this State Supreme Court ruling, Governor Inslee’s letters pausing the proposed Chehalis River dam, a bio of Celebrate Water’s guest speaker, the American Water Resource Association’s state conference event, and more. 

I also want to send out a big thank you to all of our Celebrate Waters Sponsors. They play a huge role in helping us do our important work!

 Sincerely, 

Trish Rolfe

Executive Director

trolfe@celp.org

PS. Please tune into Celebrate Waters Virtual event on September 17th and stay safe!

Read the Full Newsletter: https://conta.cc/2EQvkQg


Washington Water Watch: June 2020 Edition

Letter from the Executive Director

Dear friends of CELP,
We hope you are all staying safe and healthy. As CELP staff continues into its fourth month of working from home, we continue to stay focused on our mission, but our work continues to change as this crisis continues. Our outreach has changed considerably as we say goodbye to our Outreach Coordinator of three years, Nick Manning, who just graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy at the University of Washington and has moved on to fight climate change with another organization. Congratulation Nick, and good luck in your new job. We have also had to change our outreach plans as all the events and programs that we had on our calendar for the summer were canceled because of COVID-19. Going forward we will be transitioning to virtual outreach events and reaching out by phone and email to continue to do this important work, please feel free to reach out to us if you want to join us in protecting Washington’s water resources. Our legal and policy work continue with virtual hearings and meetings. 

CELP continues this important work to protect, preserve, and restore Washington’s waters now for future generations because our water resources face tremendous challenges. The impacts from Climate Change and increased development have impaired our rivers and streams, and the fish and wildlife that depend on them. But we can’t do it alone. We rely heavily on support from individuals like you, so if you are able please support CELP’s important work by donating on our website, www.celp.org.


In this issue you will find an update on the Spokane River Instream Flow Rule case, a BIG thank you, our Chehalis River dam proposal comments, an introduction to our 2020 interns, our 2019 annual report, and information on our upcoming Celebrate Water event.

Sincerely, 

Trish Rolfe

Executive Director

trolfe@celp.org

Read the Full Newsletter: https://conta.cc/38f5vnf


Washington Water Watch: March/April Edition

Arianna Signorini

Dear friends of CELP,

We wanted to check in with you. We hope you are staying safe and healthy. All of us at CELP are happy to connect with you during this time. We are fortunate to be working from home and would love to find ways to talk with our supporters, share ideas, and interact with our community.

We are facing an unprecedented situation with the COVID-19 outbreak. We have all been impacted and we understand that it is a difficult time for everyone.  Our priority is the safety of our staff, their families, and our community. We are navigating the situation to the best of our ability and continue to work to protect, preserve, and restore Washington’s waters now and for future generations. 

CELP continues to do this work because our water resources also face tremendous challenges.The impacts from Climate Change and increased development have impaired our rivers and streams, and the fish and wildlife that depend on them. 

We understand it is a stressful time for everyone. If you have the capacity to renew your membership or make a donation we greatly appreciate your contribution. Above all we want to stay connected to you, our community, and our common goal of protecting our waters. Our hard work would not be possible without you. You can use our secure website, www.celp.org, to support CELP’s work.

We also want to encourage you to support your local businesses and restaurants, front line workers, other nonprofits, and each other during this difficult time. Together we are stronger.

In this issue you will find a wrap up of the legislative session, a recap of Winter Waters, and information on GiveBIG Washington, our 25th anniversary, Celebrate Water’s new date, and water stories. 

 Sincerely, 

Trish Rolfe

Executive Director

trolfe@celp.org

Read the full newsletter: https://conta.cc/34rO68R


Washington Water Watch: February 2020 Edition

Dear friends of CELP,

This year started off unusually warm and wet with Seattle experiencing its 3rd warmest January on record and the wettest start to the year in over a decade. January was Washington’s 12th warmest on record and among its least snowy. February has also had record-breaking warm days and there were numerous floods across Western Washington. This trend is worrisome for our water resources with more rain and less snow during the winter months leading to droughts during the summer. Thankfully we have received a lot of snow in the mountains in the last few weeks and our snowpack is now over 100% of normal. We will be monitoring what happens in the next few months to see if we will experience another drought. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, we have been working hard in Olympia to protect Washington’s waters. This year’s legislative session has kept CELP very busy dealing with over a dozen water bills. But our hard work would not be possible without you. We rely on generous donations from our members and supporters to hold our lawmakers and agencies accountable for protecting Washington’s rivers and streams. If you haven’t renewed your membership for 2020, you can do it today on our secure website, www.celp.org.

In this issue you will find information about water banking, water bottling, the legislative session, a call to action, Clean & Abundant Waters lobby day, the Spokane River Instream Flow Rule, upcoming events, and Water Stories. 

Sincerely, 

Trish Rolfe

Executive Director

trolfe@celp.org

Read the Full Newsletter

Sol Duc Falls Olympic National Park by Julie Titone

Washington Water Watch: January 2020 Edition

Dear friends of CELP,


Happy New Year everyone! CELP is entering 2020 focused on our mission to protect, preserve, and restore Washington’s waters. 


This year we will continue our outreach to connect people to the impacts of climate change and water scarcity issues. We will continue to act in the community, participate in streamflow restoration workgroups, work with Native American Tribes to honor and support their treaty rights and tribal fisheries, and advocate for sustainable instream flows. When our water is threatened we will use litigation to protect and defend Washington’s rivers and drinking water aquifers.


We are starting the year strong and working hard in Olympia to protect Washington’s waters during the legislative session. Our hard work would not be possible without you. We rely on generous donations from our members and supporters to hold our lawmakers and agencies accountable for protecting Washington’s rivers and streams. Please consider helping us continue this important work by making a donation today!


In this issue you will find information about Snowpack levels, the 2020 Legislative Session, Clean and Abundant Water Lobby Day, the latest Columbia River Treaty town hall, a big thank you to the Kalispel Tribe and to all of our supporters, and upcoming events.

 Sincerely,

Trish Rolfe

Executive Director

trolfe@celp.org

Full Newsletter

Methow River. Elan Ebeling.