Reclaimed water, and the rules that govern it, took center stage at CenterPlace last week.
The May 20 meeting hosted by the state Department of Ecology in Spokane Valley represented one of three public events held this month to discuss future changes to the state administrative code addressing recycled water uses. Officials with DOE and the Washington Department of Health hope to have the final document wrapped up by December.
“This is about treating water to high standards that can be used for beneficial purposes,” Tim Gaffney, Reclaimed Water Rule coordinator told a crowd of close to 75 last Friday.
The state Legislature passed bills in 2006, 2007 and 2009 that established new guidelines for reclaimed water throughout Washington. The original standards were established 12 years ago.
In November 2006, the process of organizing a comprehensive set of regulations began with the formation of five stakeholder groups. Gaffney said public hearings on a draft of the code are scheduled for this fall following a cost benefit analysis and a SEPA (state environmental protection act) review.
“We’re working on something that will be precise, that will codify it all in one place,” he said.
There are currently 22 reclaimed water facilities in Washington with another seven under construction. Gaffney said there are plans for up to 30 sites in the near future.
Tom Agnew was one of several representatives of the Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District to attend the nearly two-hour meeting. LLSWD is in the process of building the first stage of a reclamation system near Interstate 90 and the Harvard exit.
“With the district’s history of environmental stewardship, it makes sense that we would be a part of something like this,” said Agnew, one of three LLSWD commissioners.
Agnew said irrigation of a trio of golf courses in Liberty Lake could be one of the uses of reclaimed water once the machinery is in place. A pilot program took place at several city of Spokane golf venues last year.
The inventory of reclaimed water applications covers a wide range of commercial and industrial uses including dust control, street washing, fire suppression and wetlands supplementation. While the list is substantial, Jim McCauley, an environmental engineer with DOE’s Water Quality program, said utilizing the resource hinges on how well it is treated.
“If you can’t guarantee it’s going to be reliable in terms of water quality, then it’s not going to be viable,” McCauley said.
Craig Riley is an engineer with the Department of Health’s Water Reclamation and Reuse program. He said DOE and DOH have “a good working relationship” and will continue to collaborate on the permitting process after the new code is passed later this year.
“We do look at different things,” Riley said.
When Spokane County began discussing the need for a new wastewater treatment facility in 1999, water reclamation was part of the discussion. The groundbreaking for the plant finally took place in June of last year with plans to produce Class A reclaimed water, the highest treatment level currently established. Dave Moss, manager of the county’s reclaimed water program, said “the design and construction of the new plant will meet that level of treatment right out of the blocks” and added that such water could be used to restore wetlands in areas like the Saltese Flats.
Like LLSWD, the county has emphasized the importance of reducing the amount of phosphorous and other byproducts contained in water discharged into the Spokane River. An abundance of such nutrients leads to harmful algae growth that can deplete oxygen for fish and other aquatic life.
Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency approved the Washington Water Quality Improvement report intended to improve the health of the Spokane River and Lake Spokane. Lee Mellish, LLSWD manager, said the new guidelines represent the latest effort to protect local water resources, an approach that included LLSWD introducing restrictions on dishwashing and laundry soaps that contain phosphorous.
“Our district was founded on lake protection and looking out for the environment,” Mellish said.