Ecology News: Getting PCBs out of schools is key target of new plan

Washington Department of Ecology – NEWS
March 2, 2015

Andrew Wineke, Ecology communications,,  360-407-6149, Twitter: @ecologyWA
Nathan Olson, OSPI communications,, 360-725-6015
Donn Moyer, Health media relations,, 360-236-4076

 Getting PCBs out of schools is key target of new plan
Removing old fluorescent light transformers will protect kids, save energy

OLYMPIA – Finding and eliminating the toxic chemicals known as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, contained in some fluorescent light ballasts in schools is the priority recommendation of a plan released today by the Washington departments of Health and Ecology.

Although federal law banned PCBs in 1979, there are widespread reservoirs of this toxic chemical in fluorescent light ballasts, old caulk, electrical transformers, and paint. In addition, new PCBs are generated as byproducts of some manufacturing processes, such as making pigments and dyes.

PCBs are persistent in the environment, build up in the food chain, and can cause adverse health effects in humans and wildlife, including cancer and harm to immune, nervous, and reproductive systems. Light ballasts are a particular concern because they can fail, dripping PCB-laden oil in classrooms and other public areas – although they do not pose an immediate health risk if they are not leaking.

As much as 3,300 pounds of PCBs a year in Washington may be released from light ballasts, although there needs to be more research on how many PCB-containing ballasts are still in use. Some school districts have replaced these light fixtures, but there is no complete census of where they are or how many still remain. Washington’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has a program that assists local schools in replacing these PCB-containing light fixtures with more energy-efficient lighting.

“Getting decades-old light ballasts that contain PCBs out of schools and away from kids is an investment in the future of our state,” said State Superintendent Randy Dorn. “It protects our students, protects the environment, reduces electricity use, saves money and produces higher-quality lighting. It’s a smart move every step of the way.”

Along with replacing PCB-containing light ballasts, the plan recommends a number of other measures to prevent PCBs from getting into the environment, such as taking additional precautions when demolishing old buildings. The plan also calls for more environmental monitoring for PCBs and additional research on how PCBs are generated as manufacturing byproducts.

“We need to clean up the remaining sources of PCBs that pollute our water and fish,” said Maia Bellon, Ecology’s director. “This plan gives us a playbook to do just that, protecting the environment and the health of our kids.”

Ecology and Health developed the PCB plan with input from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, local governments, businesses, and health and environmental organizations

“Widespread toxic pollution is an invisible threat to the health of people in Washington, especially our kids,” said Secretary of Health John Wiesman. “We must continue to find and remove these sources of toxics, including PCBs. This plan will continue that work and help to prevent health effects for generations to come.”

This is Washington’s fifth chemical action plan. Previous plans have addressed toxic chemicals such as lead, mercury and the flame retardant polybrominated diphenyl ether. Like PCBs, these chemicals stick around in the environment and accumulate in people and animals.

Governor Jay Inslee is proposing to expand Washington’s chemical action plan system to deal with these widespread toxic chemicals more comprehensively. Gov. Inslee’s budget proposal includes funding for the recommendations in the PCB plan, expanding OSPI’s energy efficiency grant program and a number of other measures to support eliminating toxic chemicals and preventing pollution in Washington communities.





Ecology’s Spokane River Toxics Monitoring FY2013

Click on the links below to access the Quality Assurance Project Plans for the FY2013 Spokane River Toxics Monitoring Activities.

Comments are requested on the DRAFT QAPP only by November 21, 2012. Submit comments to Brandee Era-Miller: BERA461@ECY.WA.GOV

DRAFT 10-28-2012 Quality Assurance Project Plan: Spokane River Toxics Fish Tissue and Preliminary Monitoring in Fiscal Year 2013 – In Support of the Long-term Toxics Monitoring Strategy. [Note: The Quality Assurance Project Plan was finalized January, 2013 and can be viewed at: To access the draft document as posted on 11/8/2012, contact us.]

The following QAPP was prepared and approved in 2002 and provided for reference. No comments requested on this document.

Quality Assurance Project Plan: Washington State Toxics Monitoring Program, Exploratory Monitoring of Toxic Contaminants in Edible Fish Tissue and Freshwater Environments of Washington State

Signatories to the Memorandum of Agreement

Voting Members

Spokane County MOA/Spokane County SRRTTF Resolution 12-0145

Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District MOA

Inland Empire Paper Company MOA

Kaiser Aluminum MOA

City of Spokane MOA/City of Spokane OPR 2012-0059

Spokane Regional Health District MOA

Washington State Department of Health MOA

Lake Spokane Association MOA

The Lands Council MOA

Spokane Riverkeeper MOA

City of Coeur d’Alene MOA

Kootenai Environmental Alliance

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife


Avista Letter of Support



Washington State, Represented by the Department of Ecology

Washington State Department of Ecology MOA

United States, Represented by the Environmental Protection Agency




August 8, 2012 Administrative Work Group Meeting

Spokane River Regional Task Force

Administrative Work Group Meeting

Date: August 8, 2012
Time: 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 pm

Location: Washington Department of Ecology
N. 4601 Monroe St.
Spokane, WA 99205
Click here for a map.

Meeting Documents

SRRTTF Administrative Work Group Meeting Notes

SRRTTF Administrative Work Group Meeting Draft Agenda

Comments Received from Kaiser Aluminum

SRRTTF-Nonprofit-Entity-Articles_PC comments


Form of Electronic Notice Consent

Conflict of Interest Policy

Comments Received from Spokane County:

Microsoft Office Outlook – Memo Style-20120807163433

Comments Received from Ecology and WA Department of Health:

Microsoft Office Outlook – Memo Style-20120807151702

Spokane River Technical Workshop – September 29th, 2011

The Spokane River Forum invites you to a Spokane River Technical Workshop regarding Department of Health Fish Advisories for PCBs, metals and other toxics.

Date: September 29th
Time: 2:00 p.m.
Location: Washington Department of Ecology, 4601 N. Monroe St., Spokane

Please RSVP by e-mailing, or calling 509-535-7084.

Click to view agenda: Spokane River Technical Workshop 9/29 Agenda

Since the last Spokane River fish advisory was updated, new methodologies are being used to calculate human health risk for additive exposure to PCBs and other chemicals following similar biological pathways. Further, Washington State is considering changes to toxics criteria for human health based on fish consumption. These changes are of importance to stakeholder discussions regarding reduction of toxics in the Spokane River.

As shown in attached agenda, Dave McBride from Washington Department of Health will review and discuss these issues with interested stakeholders. Representatives from the Urban Waters Initiative and other local experts will help participants understand the potential impact of these policies on assessing Spokane River needs.