Water Reclamation Facility Upgrades


IMG_1014-T_4-24-05In an effort to improve the water quality of Liberty Lake, the District constructed a wastewater collection and treatment facility in 1973 that replaced existing on-site septic systems. The treatment facility was completed in August 1982.

The District was one of the first dischargers in the region to upgrade their facility to achieve enhanced phosphorous removal from its discharge to the river. In 2006 the District converted their facility from an extended aeration process to a biological nutrient removal treatment process. This reduced the phosphorous discharge from 20-25 pounds per day prior to the upgrade to 3-4 pounds per day after the upgrade was completed. The facility now removes 91% of the phosphorous that enters the plant today.

The Washington State Department of Ecology issues a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit to discharge to the Spokane River. The most recent permit issued July 2011 requires stringent new levels of phosphorus removal. To meet these new standards will require construction of expensive filtration equipment that must be up and running in 2018.

The design for Phase 2 of the facility upgrades is now complete. These upgrades include advanced tertiary treatment through chemical addition and membrane filtration. This additional treatment will further reduce phosphorous discharge to less than ½ pound per day. This will equate to better than 99% removal of phosphorous entering the facility. Estimated cost of this upgrade is $17.1 million. In early 2015, the District received loan funding through Washington State Department of Ecology’s State Revolving Fund. The long range plan of the District is to discontinue discharging to the river and go to land application. However, to go to land application, the facility must be upgraded to treat wastewater to a class A standard.


The NPDES permit also requires all dischargers to the Spokane River in Washington to participate in the Spokane River Regional Toxic Task Force, a group that includes environmental organizations, tribes, regulators and others to study Polychlorinated Biphenyl’s (PCB’s). The District also is a member and participates in the Spokane River Stewardship Partners. Manufacture and use of PCB’s ended in the mid 70’s in the U.S., but the residual is ubiquitous in the environment. The Toxic Task Force is involved in reviewing existing data on PCB’s, developing a public education program on PCB’s and creating a comprehensive plan to reduce PCB’s and other toxics in the river. In addition, dischargers will conduct testing within their systems to determine sources of PCB’s. Testing for PCB’s at the levels required in the permit cannot be done locally. In fact, there are only a couple of labs in North America that can test to the levels required, i.e. parts per quadrillion. The District is sending samples to a lab in Vancouver B.C. at a cost of nearly $1000 per sample. Additional testing is also required for dioxins, metals and other elements. The increase cost in sampling alone in 2012 is over $40,000. How small is parts per quadrillion? The Vancouver lab gave the analogy that a parts per quadrillion is like taking the entire area of Canada and place a dollar bill on the ground. The dollar bill would represent the one part per quadrillion. The toxics task force has 5 years to produce a plan for the reduction of PCB’s in the river system. The District’s treatment facility upgrades and increase in sampling will ultimately result in increased sewer rates in the future.


Spokane River Regional Toxic Task Force

Spokane River Stewardship Partners


Don’t flush drugs or toxics down the toilet or dispose of these chemicals into street drains, sewers, drywells or at self-service car washes which could contaminate surface or groundwater. The District’s Water Reclamation Plant is a biological plant and not designed to remove these chemicals. The Spokane County Transfer Station at 3941 North Sullivan will take toxics such as oil, antifreeze, paint, pesticides, herbicides, solvents, etc. free of charge. For additional information contact the Spokane County recycle hotline (509) 625-6800. For pharmaceuticals, utilize the local law enforcement special disposal days when advertised.