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Paper Plant May Meet Discharge Requirements

by Associated Press
Capital Press - August 16, 2002

LEWISTON, Idaho -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking a new look at the wastewater Potlatch Corp.'s pulp and paper plant discharges into the Snake River.

The department's latest review is prompted by draft temperature standards recently proposed by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.

State officials are rethinking the temperature guidelines. It would allow companies such as Potlatch to discharge water as long as the waterway absorbing the flow is already above standards because of natural conditions.

If that is the case, discharge would be allowed as long as it does not warm the river more than 0.3 degrees Celsius.

Jim Bellaty, Environmental Quality regional director, said his department tries to account for natural background conditions in the rivers when it considers if the companies comply.

So if a stream has a water temperature standard of 68 degrees Fahrenheit to protect spawning salmon and steelhead, but the state agency determines the stream naturally exceeds the standard during hot spells, discharge could continue.

For almost two years, the EPA has been writing a new permit that allows Potlatch to continue to release 40 million gallons of wastewater into the snake River each day (about 60 cubic feet per second).

A draft permit sets strict temperature standards that may require the company to cool its wastewater to 68 degrees before it could be released in the summer.

The water Potlatch releases now can be up to 92 degrees.

Company officials have said complying could cost as much as $25 million to revamp its equipment and more to run it.

The difficult part of the state's proposed standards is determining when hot water temperatures are caused by natural conditions or human activity, Bellaty said.

The new state standards also have to be approved by the EPA.

Federal wastewater permit author Christine Koch of Seattle is trying to figure out how the new standard, if adopted, would affect that document.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service will continue to review the draft to determine whether it complies with the Endangered Species Act.

Related Pages:
Industry Group Puts Up Money for DEQ Study by Michelle Cole, The Oregonian -- August 17, 2002

Associated Press
Paper Plant May Meet Discharge Requirements
Capital Press - August 16, 2002

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