Spokane Riverkeeper

Letter to the Governor: A Toxics Shell Game

We have been talking about this for months and can’t stress it enough.  The Proposed Human Health Criteria Water Quality Standards fail to protect the health of consumers of locally caught fish and shellfish.  Washington proposed increasing the estimated amount of fish that we eat dramatically.  Raising that amount requires reducing the amount of toxins in those fish (and thereby the environment).  However, instead of proposing to reduce toxins, the Washington State Department of Ecology proposed increasing the acceptable cancer rate based on those toxins.  So in sum, no changes in water quality or fish toxicity would occur!  This shell game with toxins, fish consumption level, and cancer rate does nothing to protect fish consumers or our environment.  In a letter to Ecology, a number of local businesses and nonprofits, such as your Spokane Riverkeeper argue that the proposed criteria are inadequate.  Check it out here: 2015.3.23 NGO and Business Letter re WQS

In Support of Ecology…

Here at the Spokane Riverkeeper, we work to clean up and bring awareness to nonpoint source pollution.  Nonpoint source pollution, as its name implies, comes from many diffuse sources.  As rain or snowmelt runs over land it picks up pollutants and deposits them in our waters.  Our water quality monitoring program aims to bring attention to and measure theses pollutants in our streams.   On that note, check out how dirty Hangman Creek was this week (3/17/15)! 

However, cleaning up nonpoint source pollution falls to a variety of organizations which employ a variety of methods.  The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) is tasked with enforcing the environmental regulations in Washington State.  Recently, we wrote a letter to Ecology, supporting the work they do.  In short we said….

I want you to understand that much of the public that we represent stands with Ecology in their efforts to develop a non-point plan, establish the terms of compliance to this plan and we stand by the regulatory efforts of your ground teams to consistently hold parties accountable in protecting Washington’s public water resources.   

Check out the entire letter: Ecology letter 3-19-15.

Enforcing existing laws provides a strong regulatory backbone which will drive all other pollution control efforts.

Washington Deserves Clean Water and Clean Fish!

The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) is proposing an increase the estimated amount of fish eaten per person per day to 175 grams.  That’s good news!  Currently, Washington State woefully underestimates fish consumption at 6.5 grams of fish/per day.  fish3_1

Now the bad news.  Along with this rule comes a proposed tenfold increase in the acceptable rate for risk of cancer from one in one million to one in 100,000, as well as providing significantly more time for polluters to meet water quality standards.   This is in part because if you currently eat 175 grams of locally caught fish/day, you exceed greater cancer risk level of one in a million.

Instead of reducing the amount of toxins in our water and fish Ecology has proposed allowing for greater cancer risk. 

fish pipeHigh levels of toxins in fish disproportionally affect children, tribal communities, sport fishers and pregnant women.  These communities eat a higher ratio of local fish or are more vulnerable to risks of eating toxin laden fish.  So tell Ecology that we deserve clean water and clean fish!

 

 

Riparian Cover on the Little Spokane River

Streamside, or riparian, vegetation performs vital ecosystem functions for our waters.  To name a few, it keeps the water cool in the summer, filters pollutants, provides habitat, and contributes woody debris.   Portions of the Little Spokane River, like this one behind St. Georges School have great riparian habitat.  Healthy riparian habitat consists of a combination of tall mature trees, willows, and aquatic plants.

Excellent riparian habitat along the Little Spokane River behind St. George's School.
Excellent riparian habitat along the Little Spokane River behind St. George’s School.

However, portions of Deadman Creek, a tributary of the Little Spokane River shown below, need major improvements.

Riparian vegetation is absent along Deadman Creek.
Riparian vegetation is absent along Deadman Creek.

A small riparian buffer, like the one shown below, filters out sediments, nutrients, toxins, and bacteria.

A portion of Deadman Creek with grassy riparian habitat.
A portion of Deadman Creek with grassy riparian buffers.

 

Our native redband trout and other species that depend on our waters need intact riparian habitat.  For one, redband trout need cool waters of less than 20°C (68°F), which are kept cool from overhanging riparian trees and shrubs.