Wapato wastewater plant allegedly dumped pollutants into Yakima, Columbia Rivers

Wapato
Image credit: City of Wapato

WAPATO, Wash. —  The City of Wapato has been accused of violating the Clean Water Act and mismanaging its wastewater treatment facility; allowing water with high levels of zinc, ammonia, and copper to flow through the Wanity Slough into the Yakima River and Columbia River.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the City of Wapato reached a settlement after the federal agency recorded a staggering number of violations at Wapato’s wastewater treatment facility. As a result, the city was forced to pay a large fine for allowing the continued discharge of polluted water.

According to a news release from the EPA, Wapato failed to meet the standards it set by its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. They face a multitude of violations including 3,000 effluent limit violations for exceeding the regulated amount of ammonia, copper, and zinc in the region’s wastewater.

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That NPDES permit allows the discharge of pollutants into a drainage way through the Wapato Irrigation Project. This water eventually makes its way through the Yakima River before flowing into the Columbia River in Richland.

Most of these violations pertain to the discharge of zinc, which is harmful to the region’s fish. This is particularly impactful to the salmon and trout population residing in the Wanity Slough.

The two parties settled on a penalty of $25,750. Additionally, the city will be required to take action, as specified by EPA officials, to prevent continued discharge of pollutants in excess of limits place by the federal agency. The City of Wapato is also accused of failing to update its Quality Assurance Plan and Operations and Maintenance Plan for the wastewater treatment facility.

Now, Wapato is requesting funds from the Washington State Department of Ecology to develop a process to remove high zinc levels from the water.

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