Another great post by Catherine O’Neill

Kick the Can

Over at the Center for Progressive Reform blog, Catherine O’Neill covers the delays by the federal and state governments in getting serious about water quality.

Washington state’s efforts have also been fraught by delay and reversals of course. Although Washington recognized the relevance of the CRITFC and other tribal studies in the late 1990s, and had made commitments to update the FCR that informed its WQS and cleanup standards, it only recently embarked upon this effort. Washington’s Department of Ecology (Ecology) appeared to be making progress when it published its Fish Consumption Rates Technical Support Document in September, 2011. Ecology reviewed the available studies, including the tribal surveys and a survey of Asian and Pacific Islanders, and “concluded that available scientific studies support the use of a default fish consumption rate in the range of 157 to 267 grams per day (g/day).” In July, 2012, however, Ecology abruptly announced a “pivot.” This change of course involved backing down from announcing a default FCR in its Technical Support Document and punting this determination to subsequent rulemakings. These rulemaking processes are underway, with standards not expected until spring of 2014. EPA issued a fairly tepid response to Ecology’s July 2012 pivot. While EPA called attention to its recent disapproval of Idaho’s inadequate standards as “strong precedent for the current process in Washington,” it offered its support for Ecology’s “commitment to commencing” revisions to its WQS. EPA also noted that “[i]f and when there is regional or local data showing higher fish consumption rates, it needs to be utilized for derivation of the State’s human health criteria” – but made no mention of the years that had already elapsed while such data had indeed been available, nor suggested any repercussions for Ecology’s failure to respond to this data.

O’Neill previously covered the FCR issue a few months ago here and here.

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