Parts of the South Fork of the Palouse River, Paradise Creek and their tributaries violate temperature, bacteria, dissolved oxygen and pH standards set in place by the Clean Water Act.Where to start?
The Washington State Department of Ecology is monitoring the water to determine the sources of the contaminants and figure out how much contamination the water can hold.
Elaine Snouwaert, watershed coordinator for the department, said the system has been on the department’s watch list since 1996.
Washington requires that all streams meet Clean Water Act standards, and Snouwaert said the state consistently monitors 5 percent to 15 percent of its waterways. The rest are studied when the department gets to them.
Snouwaert said the Palouse streams are not unlike other waterways in the state. Studies done so far indicate a high level of fecal coliform, a product of human and animal waste.
The Palouse Conservation District’s Pullman office is located on the banks of the South Fork of the Palouse. The district is funded by grants and works with landowners to protect the environment.
PCD Director Rob Buchart said the district and the people he’s talked to want clean water and are willing to work toward that goal.
However, they are concerned that the results of the ecology department study could mean increased laws that restrict private land use.
“When people think of pollutants, they can think of green toxic chemicals and industrial waste,” Buchart said. “What they’re looking at here is temperature, pH and fecal coliform; things that are native of the environment.”
Buchart said the water quality in the area could be improved, but he’s worried some of the restrictions don’t apply to the area, such as water temperature.
“The broad state standard for temperature is for cold-water species, like trout and salmon,” he said. “We don’t have any native trout or salmon that we know of.”
He said the current standard could be unattainable because of the natural conditions of the streams.
Snouwaert said the study will create numbers that will suggest actions be taken in both Washington and Idaho.
Idaho is required to meet Washington’s water-quality index when water flows across the border, and she said the readings from Idaho are not always within the required levels.
Snouwaert said Moscow, Pullman, Colfax and other towns in the drainage area dump into the waterways. She said the study will give the cities a more accurate idea of how much reclaimed water they can put back into the system without overloading the water.
“Sometimes the water coming out of the sewage plants can be cleaner than the water flowing by,” she said.
Snouwaert said the study will focus on identifying non-point runoff, such as livestock pastures, for fecal coliform.
She said scientists can put a monitor directly downstream from a sewage plant and get an accurate reading, but it is difficult to quantitate the runoff and source of contaminantes from the rest of the land.
Snouwaert said public participation will be key to fixing the problem because of questions about where contaminantes come from.
“People live in the area, and they deal with the water every day,” she said. “They can be very helpful with coming up with a solution.”
The Department of Ecology will hold public forums to determine ways to bring the river and streams into compliance. Snouwaert said a large part of the success in the waterways’ recoveries will be determined by public participation once the study is completed. That should be sometime in the next two years.
Buchart said the conservation district hopes to be able to solve the problems locally with landowners instead of having the government hand down heavy regulations.
“The finger tends to drift towards livestock and private landowners,” he said. “Hopefully, wildlife and urban contributions will also be recognized.”
We have idiots in Olympia applying cold-water river regulations to a river that has NEVER been nor EVER WILL BE the habitat of cold-water fish such as salmon or trout BECAUSE OF PALOUSE FALLS. If they're so worried about salmon runs, why not just blow up the falls and let the salmon move upstream to spawn. That's just as ridiculous an idea as what they are proposing now. So much for the "diversity" of nature. Every river in the state of Washington is treated exactly the same, regardless of its origins, hydogeology, climate, etc.
We have idiots in Olympia applying temperature regulations to a river that, if it were not for effluent from Moscow's water treatment plant, would run dry in the summer.
We have idiots in Olympia applying pH and fecal coliform standards to a river that runs through countless wheatfields and cow pastures. And has it occured to anyone that we are DOWNSTREAM from Moscow, the U of I and thousands of toilets? Of course "readings from Idaho are not always within the required levels," but they're not the ones on the hook for millions of dollars, are they?
"The results of the ecology department study could mean increased laws that restrict private land use?" I'm telling you once again. Vote for I-933 and save yourself before it's too late. This whole water issue is going to drown all development in Pullman and Whitman County.