Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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City Council right to fight unrealistic water standards for Klamath River
Herald and News Editorial February 22, 2011
If there's any logic behind the federal government's proposed Klamath River pollution standards, we hope it becomes apparent soon in the city of Klamath Falls' petition for review of the matter. But since the treated wastewater that goes from the city's facilities to the river is cleaner than the water put there by nature, that doesn't look likely.
The city, along with other Upper Klamath Basin governmental units and businesses, face potentially huge costs to try to live up to a standard set by state and federal officials that can't be met. The estimated costs range anywhere from $2 million to $200 million for the city alone. The most likely cost appears to be at least $6 million, which would also add an additional $200,000 a year in operating costs. Depending on the figure, that could send rates skyrocketing for those served by the city wastewater system. Residents in the suburban area, which is served by the South Suburban Sanitary District , also ware dealing with the issue, which is commonly known by its initials - TMDL - which stands for "total daily maximum load." The problem for the Upper Klamath Basin area comes from the amount of naturally occurring phosphorous in the river. In 2008, the chief scientist for the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries estimated the amount as about 10 times the norm. Last week the Klamath Falls City Council filed a petition with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality for review of the unrealistic standards that were set by the DEQ, in response to federal law. The process could eventually lead to a lawsuit to try to prevent the costly new benchmarks. The new standards are set by the federal Clean Water Act of 1972 and enforced by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which has received the proposed order for the Klamath River Basin from the DEQ and is expected to respond any time. The City Council did the right thing in moving to challenge the proposed TMDL standards. Rather than spending money on expensive new filtration and treatment facilities that won't improve the river, people have better things to spend their money on. Like food. Or rent. Or schools.
Page Updated: Friday February 25, 2011 08:44 PM Pacific
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