EPA must now act to protect people who consume fish from Washington Waters
On Friday July 31 Governor Inslee announced he would be directing the Washington Department of Ecology not to proceed with its pending draft rule water quality standards rule. The rulemaking process is required by the federal Clean Water Act to set standards to control toxic pollution in Washington waterways based on established health risks, including the amount of fish people eat (also known as the fish consumption rate). Governor Inslee’s announcement was prompted by a setback in the Washington state legislature, where the Governor failed to pass a related source control package.
Earlier this year, Ecology’s draft rule came under widespread criticism from tribes, commercial fishing groups, water quality advocates and others because it failed to advance much-needed and long-overdue toxic control standards. Although it included a significantly increased fish consumption rate, based on data from the population, the draft rule had numerous problems. The implications of an increased fish consumption rate alone would be significant: Industry and cities would need to reduce the amount of toxic pollution discharged to Puget Sound, the Spokane River, the Columbia River, and other lakes and rivers throughout the state.. But bowing to industry pressure, Ecology also manipulated the “acceptable” cancer risk rates (increased by factors of 10x to 40x for different chemicals), resulting in little to no improvement in the standards for many of the most dangerous chemicals.
The delay announced last week by Governor Inslee sets the process back once again, with the status quo benefitting polluting industries which lobbied extensively for longer timelines and weaker standards for toxic water pollution. By failing to propose and finalize adequate protections, as required by the federal Clean Water Act, Governor Inslee and Ecology have abdicated their responsibility to uphold the public trust of regulating water pollution in the interest of protecting public health.
Waterkeepers Washington is calling on the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is ultimately responsible under the Clean Water Act to ensure that water quality standards are set at scientifically-supported levels that protect all Washingtonians. EPA should promptly publish and finalize its version of the rule in order to protect people in Washington that eat fish.
For more information contact Chris Wilke, Puget Soundkeeper 206-297-7002 or Lauren Goldberg, Columbia Riverkeeper 541-965-0985
Waterkeepers Washington is coalition of licensed Waterkeeper organizations operating in Washington State. Members include Columbia Riverkeeper, North Sound Baykeeper, Spokane Riverkeeper and Puget Soundkeeper.