EPA: New Research Backs Up
Potlatch allowed to dump warm water into Snake River
LEWISTON -- Proposed changes in state standards and new test results prompted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to consider allowing Potlatch Corp. to dump warm wastewater from its pulp and paper mill into the Snake River.
Three years ago, the agency issued a draft permit requiring Potlatch to cool its wastewater in July and August from as high as 93 degrees to 68 degrees. That is because salmon, steelhead and bull trout found in the river are on the Endangered Species List.
The company vigorously fought the proposed permit hailed by environmentalists. That permit stalled in discussions between federal experts.
The company asked the EPA to reconsider the temperature in light of changes in Idaho´s standards. Federal researchers ran tests of the river that indicated it could accept more warm water.
The agency recently issued a new draft that would not require Potlatch to dramatically cool the 40 million gallons of wastewater released daily.
The changing state standards, not yet approved by the EPA, say that when a waterway is warmer than temperature guidelines because of natural conditions, users like Potlatch can continue to release water that causes minor warming.
Releases that heat up the river by no more than half a degree near the release site would be permitted. Using that formula, Potlatch must cool its wastewater from 92 degrees to 89.6 degrees in July, 87.8 degrees in August and 86 degrees in September.
The new permit also allows it to use a mixing zone to cool the water.
The temperature is not measured when it comes out of the pipe but a short distance downstream after it has mixed with river water.
The Snake River often exceeds state temperature guidelines in the summer. Because it contains listed fish, the guideline is 68 degrees.
Federal regulators are accepting public comments on the proposal through July 21.
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