Speak out on the state’s proposed water quality standards

There are two competing approaches on the table to protect human health through water quality standards in Washington State. The first was issued by the EPA in September, 2015, the other by the state Department of Ecology in February.

You can contact state officials before April 22 here.

Here are some ideas about what to tell the state

1. The EPA version is more protective for approximately 80 percent of the regulated chemicals

  • Both EPA and the state have now met tribal minimum goals for a fish consumption rate of 175 g/day and a cancer risk rate of 1 in one million covering most of the regulated chemicals.
  • However, the state continues to tweak the standards in the direction to make them more leneint. They’ve updated some of the EPA criteria that move the dials in the direction of leniency (such as body weight, toxicity factors), while keeping others at older values (relative source contribution and bio-accumulation).

2. Timing: The state has a history of delay and deferral on this issue, and it is an open question whether they will complete the process this time.

You can contact state officials before April 22 here.

3. The restrictions on several important chemicals fall short in the state’s new proposal.

  • PCB’s remain the same under the state’s proposal.
  • Arsenic changes to a drinking water standard – sounds good but it doesn’t account for accumulation in fish tissue. EPA’s version is 500 to 2,000 times more stringent. The state’s concern is the presence of arsenic in regional natural geology, but the proposed change is drastic.
  • Methylmercury: This is a new standard implemented by EPA, which the state has deferred indefinitely.
    Dioxins, PAH’s, Thalates, and Pesticides: These are all important chemicals that accumulate in fish through the food chain.

4. The state proposes implementation tools that will allow more leniency in complying with water quality standards for longer periods of time.

  • Variances and compliance schedules will allow permittees to violate water quality standards for potentially long, and unspecified amounts of time.
  • The implementation tools provide Ecology with too much discretion to determine what levels of pollution control will be acceptable and for how long during these interim periods of allowed non-compliance.
  • The tools reduce accountability of Clean Water Act permits by allowing permits to be based on narrative statements, instead of specific numeric limits.

You can contact state officials before April 22 here.

Existing rule Proposed State Rule Proposed EPA Rule
Timeline WA State has been under Federal National Toxics Rule since 1992, amended in 1999. The NTR represents status quo. Unless the state delays rule-making again, the state is scheduled to issue a final rule in August 2016, which would then go to EPA for a likely 6 months review EPA could issue a final rule as early as April 2016
Fish consumption rate FCR of 6.5 grams-per-day FCR of 175-grams-per-day FCR of 175-grams-per-day
Risk rate for cancer causing chemicals 1 in 1 million 1 in 1 million 1 in 1 million
Relative Source Contribution value for non-carcinogen chemicals This factor considers sources other than water and fish when estimating exposure. The existing standard calculates water related exposure at 1.0 or 100 percent. 1.0 or 100% (no consideration of other potential sources of exposure) Values ranging from 0.2 to 0.8 or 20 to 80 percent
Bioconcentration Factor (BCF) This factor considers how toxic chemicals accumulate in fish tissue. The existing rule uses the BCF method, with values from the National Toxics Rule Used BCFs found in the National Toxics Rule. None were updated. EPA uses newer scientific methods, known as Bioaccumulation Factors (BAFs), which measures how pollution moves through the food chain to higher level organisms like salmon and Dungeness crab.
PCBs 0.00017 ug/L 0.00017 ug/L (no change to existing standard) 0.0000073 ug/L

The EPA proposal is 23 times more protective than the state proposal.

Health effects include acne-like skin conditions in adults and neurobehavioral and immunological changes in children. PCBs have been shown to cause cancer in animals.
Arsenic Freshwater: .018 ug/L (inorganic) Marine: 0.14 ug/L (inorganic) 10 mg/L (total) and a pollution minimization plan Freshwater: 0.0045 ug/L
Marine: 0.0059 ug/LThe EPA proposal is approximately 1,500 times more protective for freshwater and 2,000 times more protective for marine water than the state proposal.
Health effects: The inorganic form of arsenic is the most toxic. Adverse health effects include skin and internal cancers and cardiovascular and neurological effects.
2,3,7,8-TCDD (dioxin) 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin Freshwater 1.30E-08 Marine: 1.4E-08 Freshwater 6.40E-08 Marine: 6.4E-08 Freshwater 5.84E-10
Marine: 5.86E-10The EPA proposal is approximately 109 times more protective than the state proposal.
Health effects: EPA has classified 2,3,7,8- TCDD as a probable human carcinogen. It is known to be a developmental toxicant in animals, causing skeletal deformities, kidney defects, and weakened immune responses in the offspring of animals exposed to 2,3,7,8-TCDD during pregnancy.

1 thought on “Speak out on the state’s proposed water quality standards

  1. I totally agree with the Tribes that the State should adopt higher standards by DOE, at east as high as the EPA. The State’s track record is dismal. They allowed dams to be built without fish passage which was a law since Washington was a territory. The Department of Transportation has delayed, delayed, delayed on culvert replacement which is a minimum to what they should be doing. Many of their current outfalls go untreated, poisoning the Salish Sea with hydrocarbons and contaminants from the roadway. I was a commercial fisherman in Alaska for 40 years, and I am afraid to eat the fish coming from the Salish Sea. We should be leading, not trailing the EPA for water quality standards. We all live downstream, and our children and grand children expect and deserve better. Thank God for the EPA, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Impact Statement Process, and the Bolt decision that made Northwest Treaty Tribes co-managers of the fish and shellfish we all consume. We can and should do better!

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