The federal government is cracking down on phosphorus in Idaho.
"Federal officials have issued permits to three northern Idaho cities that limit how much pollution can be put into the Spokane River," the Seattle Times reported.
Under the new mandate, these cities must lower phosphorus discharges into the Spokane, one of the most polluted in the state. The rules say discharges must be cut by 90 percent over 10 years by Coeur d'alene, Post Falls, and Hayden.
"The new limits are included in wastewater discharge permits for the cities of Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls and the Hayden Area Regional Sewer Board, which were issued last week by the U.S. Environmental Protect Agency," the Spokesman-Review reported.
Algae is part of the impetus for the new regulations.
"The new permits come after years of effort to reduce algae blooms and boost dissolved oxygen levels in the river. Washington dischargers have been operating under similar limits since 2011," the report said.
Christine Psyk, associate director of the Office of Water and Watersheds for EPA Region 10, explained the goals of the rules.
“These permits will improve water quality throughout the Spokane River and Lake Spokane by requiring state-of-the-art treatment for phosphorus and oxygen-demanding pollutants,” she said, per the Seattle Times.
The new permits go into effect in December, according to the Associated Press.
"In addition, [Psyk said] wildlife habitat will be improved by preventing excess algae that also is a hazard for swimmers and boaters. She says fish also will be safer for human consumption," the report said.
Sid Frederickson, the Coeur d'Alene Wastewater Superintendent, explained the thinking behind the rules.
"One pound of phosphorus can consume 16 pounds of oxygen, that's why it's a great concern," he said, per KHQ.
New regs sometimes mean higher rates.
"Sewer rates have been increasing for residents of the cities as managers work to meet the new standards that have been coming for a number of years," the AP reported.
For more on policy and politics, check out Water Online's Regulations & Legislation Solution Center.