September 17, 2009

Spokane cracks down on detergents to save a river

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The Spokane River is so badly polluted that it will take $500 million and a decade to get a handle on the pollution problem. That’s the upshot of a new plan released by the Washington Department of Ecology.

 Nine years in the making, the plan envisions trading of pollution credits, much like the cap-and-trade legislation being considered in Congress to slow global warming. The public has until Oct. 15 to comment on the new plan. 

According to a story in the Spokane Spokesman-Review by Becky Kramer, enviros and government types are happy about the plan. The most memorable writing about the Spokane River’s pollution problems in recent memory came from Kim Murphy of the Los Angeles Times:

By day, Patti Marcotte is a working mom — dealing with the balancing act created by a 5-year-old daughter, a demanding job, a split-level house and a willful boxer puppy.

Come the post-dinner hour, however, Marcotte begins operating in the shadowy world of smuggled soap.

Local officials, you see, banned detergents containing phosphorus, the element that is leading to rapid growth of algae that ultimately robs the water of oxygen.

But most detergents still contain phosphorus. When residents of Spokane couldn’t get their dishes clean enough using the reformulated soaps, they went across the state line to buy the good stuff. Good for them and their dishes, anyway — but not so good for the Spokane River.

 — Robert McClure

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