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Lawsuit Demands EPA Reduce PCBs In Spokane River

Environmentalists say the EPA has failed to enforce clean water rules on the Spokane River to reduce levels of PCBs. Two groups filed a lawsuit Monday against the federal government over the cancer-causing compounds.

The Spokane River is a tributary of the Columbia River.

The Sierra Club says the Spokane River is the most PCB-polluted river in Washington. And the group argues the Clean Water Act requires regulators to create a clean-up plan for the river that sets limits on the toxic chemicals.

The Sierra Club and the Center for Environmental Law and Policy have filed suit in federal court in Seattle to establish that threshold. The Center’s Suzanne Skinner says state regulators continue to issue permits to polluters on the Spokane River.

“It’s a huge health problem,” she says. “PCBs bio-accumulate in fats. Anytime you’re exposed to them, you store them. And they also accumulate in the fish that are in the river, and so depending on where the fish are going… the implications can go everywhere.”

A spokeswoman for the Washington Department of Ecology says it’s hard to target specific sources because PCBs are so common in the soil and air.

She says her agency and the EPA have developed an alternative strategy for monitoring and cleaning up PCBs in the Spokane River.

Fish consumption advisories are in effect for several segments of the river. The commercial manufacturing of PCBs was banned in 1979. But the chemicals are slow to break down and continue to enter the river through storm water and industrial discharges.

On the Web:

Wash. Department of Ecology - Spokane River:

Sierra Club - Spokane River Project:

EPA - PCBs overview:

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