The Spokane Riverkeeper recently submitted oral comments to Ecology regarding their new fish consumption rule. Although the rule is improved from previous versions, it is still lacking. Standards for mercury, PCB’s, and Arsenic are still too high and the inclusion of variances, increased compliance schedules, and and intake credits further weaken the rule. Read on for the full story:
Oral Comments on WDOE Proposed Fish Consumption Rule – April 6, 2016
The following comments are made with regards to the proposed Washington Department of Ecology Fish Consumption Rule. These comments were prepared by the Spokane Riverkeeper and read by myself, _______________ on behalf of the Spokane Riverkeeper. The Spokane Riverkeeper is a project of the Center for Justice, and we are an affiliated member of the Waterkeeper Alliance. We work to protect and restore the world’s waters so that they are healthy and usable by communities that interact with them. As such, the Spokane Riverkeeper’s stated mission is keeping the Spokane River Fishable and Swimmable.
The rule change that the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has proposed takes several steps in the right direction, but falls short in helping us keep our Spokane River “Fishable” for the public.
- Ecology’s proposed rule has improved the fish consumption formula over the existing rule. The formula assumes a more realistic consumption rate of 175g of fish per/day while keeping the acceptable human health risk at 1 case of cancer in a million fish-eating residents. These standards would make Washington’s waters cleaner and its fish safer to eat. We commend Ecology for listening to the public and changing their proposed rules to be more realistic and more protective of human health.
- However, we encourage Ecology to review and revise their rule with regards to Mercury, PCBs and Arsenic. The proposed rule is not strong enough with regards to these toxins. All of these toxins bio-accumulate and bio-magnify in the food chain in such a way that makes Spokane River fish problematic to consume. In some cases, fish in the Spokane River are edible under the specific amounts and frequencies recommended in Dept of Health fish advisories. But depending on the age, species and river reach, many other types of fish too toxic to eat. The standards for PCBs are still exceeded in some fish and statewide mercury advisory remains in place making their consumption extremely problematic for pregnant women, children and folks who for cultural and economic reasons consume far more than the recommended allowance. Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has put forward PCB standards that are more protective and more up to date. We feel strongly that The EPA guidelines should be followed.
- Additionally, we feel that the EPA standards for both arsenic and methyl mercury should be adopted. We understand that these toxins are tough to capture, but feel strongly that inaction is not a solution. Using the older National Toxics Rule criteria is not adequate and leaves the public vulnerable to higher levels of these toxins over time.
- The proposed rule Increases timeframes for Compliance Schedules which is unacceptable. Using the language “as soon as possible” when refereeing to must meeting water quality standards is too idealistic and vague. There rule should require concrete time-limits for dischargers to meet state standards to ensure accountability that our waters are clean.
- The increased availability and/or potential use of Variances in the proposed rule is unacceptable. Ecology policy should be pushing dischargers to lower their output of dangerous chemicals at the end of pipe, precisely because of the nature and amount of pollution in a water body can be excessive and challenging. Ecology should not be providing off-ramps from meeting existing standards or providing the designated, attainable uses.
- Do not provide intake credits. Incentives should be developed to capture all pollutants coming through the systems that end up in our waters. Please construct policies that create net decreases in pollutants leaving the end-of-pipes in order to encourage dischargers to work towards cleaning up Washington’s waters.
These comments are made with the idea that we should be working towards the ultimate elimination of discharge to the nation’s rivers. Ecology’s proposed rule-making should help us get there. Please do not provide provisions that stall our progress, or avoid the tough work of getting our public waters fishable and swimmable. Thanks for the opportunity to comment.
(For the readers reference if you need -see http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/ruledev/wac173201A/1203ov.html for comparison)
EPA/ comparison of proposed WDOE rule and EPA recommendations:
WDOE info on Variances: