In May 2019, without giving notice to tribes, state officials, water quality advocates, citizens or fishing families, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is revoking protective water quality standards for Washington State. This action reverses a 2016 decision by the EPA under the Obama administration requiring the state to improve water quality standards for multiple toxic pollutants that accumulate in fish tissue and harm people and orcas.
What are water quality standards?
Washington’s water quality standards set pollution limits for different pollutants in our waters. They include numeric limits on human exposure to toxic chemicals in drinking water and locally-caught fish. Regulated toxics include mercury, arsenic, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), lead, and various industrial chemicals that cause human health concerns including cancer, neurological damage, and reproductive issues. In 2016, EPA issued strong standards based on years of research, engagement with tribal nations, and public comment.
Why does EPA want to allow more toxic chemicals in our water?
In 2017, industrial polluters filed a petition to the EPA to rescind the strong standards, siting cost concerns for the technical improvements needed to reduce their pollution. Under Trump’s federal administration, the EPA caved to corporate interest and is now rolling back Washington’s protective standards to benefit industrial polluters. This is unacceptable!
Having strong water quality standards is critical to protect human health! One major change proposed by EPA will weaken the standards for PCBs. PCBs are carcinogenic, build up in fatty tissue, and are still being discharged in waste streams in Washington. PCB’s and Mercury commonly cause fish consumption advisories for most major waterways in our state, and our endangered orca whales are some of the most toxic animals on the planet due to PCB contamination. EPA’s rollback will disproportionately harm tribal communities, fisher communities, and those that consume more fish by permitting more toxic chemicals – including PCBs – in our waters.
This cannot stand! The people of Washington, and our orcas and salmon, need greater protection from toxic pollutants, not less!
Read more about the proposal on our Washington’s Water Quality Standards Factsheet available in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
Puget Soundkeeper will fight for stronger water quality protections, and we need your help! Join us at the EPA’s Public Hearing in Seattle on September 25th, 2019, from 3-5pm, where anyone can provide public testimony opposing the proposed water quality rollbacks in Washington.
We’ll meet at 2pm on the 3rd Floor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel (1113 6th Ave, Seattle, WA 98101) in the Yosemite Conference Room to meet, go over talking points, and walk to the EPA building together.
RSVP to our Pack the Room event here and make sure to wear red to say “NO”! to EPA.
Note: If you want to make public comment, you must register HERE. See our talking points in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
You don’t have to testify if you don’t feel comfortable – just showing up wearing red will make a statement!
Can’t make the event?
Please sign our petition to stop the rollbacks!
Submit public comment on your own, via EPA’s website here.
Feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns in advance.