You are here: Home » Environment » Water Safety › Spokane River
Spokane River

  • The waters of the Spokane River are some of the most toxic in Washington, according to the websites listed below.  High pollution levels have prompted fish consumption warnings in Washington.  
  • Toxic pollution is flowing from the area around Lake Coeur d’Alene.  For decades, the former Coeur d’Alene Mining District’s mining and lead smelting operations contaminated the river with heavy metals, including lead, arsenic, zinc, and cadmium which cause health problems, including brain and nerve damage in children.  This toxic waste is hazardous to both people and wildlife.  In 1999, the Spokane River carried mine waste, including 400 tons of lead and other metals and arsenic, to the Columbia River.
    http://www.waterplanet.ws/endangeredriver/

  • Spokane industries have contributed to the pollution in the Spokane River and Aquifer.  For over 50 years Kaiser Trentwood's plant has polluted hundreds of acres of their land which is very close to the Spokane River.  In January 2012, Kaiser presented their cleanup plan to remove some of the polluted soil.  http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2012/jan/25/kaiser-unveils-cleanup-plans/
  • The Spokane River water contains:   Heavy concentrations of flame retardants and long-banned industrial compounds.  The river has dangerously high levels of PCB’s, an industrial compound that’s been banned for 30 years, but still continues to ooze and drip its way into the river.   Many of the chemicals of concern cause developmental problems in lab animals, and a variety of health problems, including cancer and liver damage.  In addition, the water contains heavy concentrations of flame retardants, dioxins, arsenic, phosphorus, sewage, and heavy metal from Coeur d’Alene mining containing lead, cadmium, and zinc.  The Spokane River has much higher PCDE levels than any other part of Washington State sampled as of 2007.  The high levels of phosphorus also promote the growth of algae and other aquatic weeds that use up the oxygen in the water, depriving the fish of adequate oxygen to survive.  In addition, the low level of water smells badly.  For more information, visit
  • The Spokane River is a receptacle for untreated storm water and raw sewage.  Numerous agencies are working to resolve this problem, from the City of Spokane to the Dept. of Ecology, Sierra Club's Spokane River Project, and the Land's Council.  (see The Spokesman-Review article by Jonathan Brunt, December 16, 2012)

  • Is the Spokane River safe to swim in?   The Spokane Regional Health District has warned river users of heavy metals in the river for over 10 years.  Lead and arsenic exposure are associated with elevated risks for cancer and other diseases.  Studies show that childhood exposure to lead can damage organs; cause learning problems, reduce intelligence, cause hyperactivity or attention deficit disorder, and is associated with nervous system problems.  Arsenic is a carcinogen that also can cause skin and circulatory damage.  The toxic heavy metals tend to concentrate in sediment, as opposed to the rocky surfaces that characterize most of the riverbed.  In parts of two cleanup sites, the concentration of lead is up to twice the level considered safe.  In some places, arsenic is present at levels double what occurs naturally in the region.  In November 2002, inspectors reported that valley soil at one site was contaminated with arsenic 45’ below ground, just 6’ from groundwater.  The amount of contamination varies widely, and high levels appear only in specific spots. 

  • WARNING:  Anyone floating in the Spokane River is required to wear a life jacket. 
What You Can Do:
  • Heed WARNINGS:  The Spokane Regional Health District encourages people to avoid the dusty soils along the Spokane River between Plantes Ferry Park and the Idaho state line that could be breathed in, or mud that could cling to clothing.  It also advises river users to wash their hands and face thoroughly before eating, and to wash anything that comes in contact with shoreline soils before entering a residence.  
  • Heed WARNINGS:  Do NOT eat fish from the Spokane River.  The SRHD warns people not to eat fish caught in the Spokane River between Upriver Dam and the Idaho state line.  Due to PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) contamination, fish in that stretch of river should be eaten no more than once a month.  Large-scale sucker and brown trout caught in Long Lake should also not be consumed more than once a month.   
For more information on the safety of eating fish from our rivers, contact:

Spokane River Fish Advisory:
Spokane Regional Health District
Mike LaScuola, (509) 324-1574
http://cforjustice.org/2011/08/31/conclusion-eating-spokane-river-fish-is-a-public-health-hazard/

Fish Advisories in Washington State:
WA Department of Health
Toll-free 1-877-485-7316
http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/oehas/fish/default.htm
  • Request signs be posted along the Spokane River and beaches to warn people of the danger of eating fish caught in the river.  Should people be informed of the water and soil’s dangerously high levels of PCB’s, lead, dioxins, arsenic, phosphorous, sewage, lead and cadmium?  Should people know that the Spokane Regional Health District encourages people to avoid the dusty soils along the Spokane River between Plantes Ferry Park and the Idaho state line that could be breathed in, or mud that could cling to clothing, advising river users to wash their hands and face thoroughly before eating, and to wash anything that comes in contact with shoreline soils before entering a residence?  (For more information, see the Spokane River and Aquifer under Environment on this website.)  
  • Read the guide to the toxic chemicals and heavy metals in the Spokane River which was published by The Center for Justice.  This guide explains that cancer-causing PCB’s are found in the river and its fish.  The guide offers ways to limit exposure.  Be cautious when you play in or along the river.  Take the time to learn how to make the river safer and cleaner for future generations.  River cleanup is a community responsibility and challenge.  View this guide at http://cforjustice.org.  (509) 835-5211 


*** ORGANIZATIONS ***
 



Main Menu:


Join Our Site:
(Spokane County non-profits only.) If you own a Spokane not-for-profit organization, click here to log-in or create new account.

Event Calendar:

The poor and needy are within our community 12 months of the year.  Keep Christmas in your heart and actions all year long.

Click here for a complete list of July's events.


Copyright © 2014 Spokane Cares Inc.             Mission Statement  |  Inspiration  |  Privacy Policy  |  Disclaimer  |  Contact Us