Improved hygiene during pandemic might be to blame for muckier wastewater coming out of Liberty Lake plant

May 12, 2020

The constant scrubbing, hand-washing and sanitizing that is protecting people from the novel coronavirus may also be inhibiting the dirty work of bugs in Liberty Lake.

The city’s wastewater treatment plant has noticed thinner bacteria colonies that aid sewage treatment. The phenomenon coincides with government orders to stay home and clean surfaces thoroughly, said BiJay Adams, general manager of the Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District.

“We’re a little at a loss, because we can’t tell people, stop washing your hands or using bleach,” Adams said. “What we’re trying to do now is wait out the storm, if you will.”

Liberty Lake notified the state Department of Ecology, which is responsible for issuing permits for entities discharging water into the Spokane River.

So far, the department has not seen the same levels of waste products remaining in treated water, known as effluent, at other treatment plants, but officials are looking statewide for trends, said Art Jenkins, the department’s wastewater permit supervisor for Eastern Washington.

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