Governor Inslee says you eat fish daily, and water quality should reflect that
Gov. Jay Inslee wants to toughen the state’s clean water rules by increasing the estimate of how much fish Washington residents eat. On Wednesday he announced his proposed update to the state’s water quality standards, saying that he found a solution that “advanced the values of human, environmental and economic health.”
How much fish people eat is part of a complicated formula that determines how clean waters should be. A higher rate theoretically would mean fewer toxic chemicals would be allowed in waters and tougher permitting rules for facilities that discharge pollutants into state waters.
Current standards assume Washingtonians eat 6.5 grams of fish per day, or about one serving per month. There is widespread agreement that many people in the state consume much more fish than this, but disagreement about whether the new rule should account for the highest-consumers, such as Native Americans or those who fish for recreation. The higher the fish consumption rate, the more stringent water quality rules become for businesses and local governments.
Inslee’s proposal updates Washington’s water quality standards to be more protective of those who consume 175 grams of fish per day — an increase from one serving per month to one serving per day. Of the 96 chemicals regulated under the rule, about 70 percent will have new, more protective standards.
“Many people have seen the mandate to update our water quality standards as a choice between protecting human health or protecting the economy. I reject that choice because both values are essential to our future,” Inslee said.
Business such as Boeing and others had worried too-stringent rules would hurt jobs and economic growth because costly technologies would be required to keep certain levels of toxic chemicals out of state waters.
Washington’s current standards were set in 1992 and focus on controlling pollution coming out of large pipes from large facilities. Inslee said the standards are out of date and the federal approach to clean water is inadequate to address today’s threats to clean water.
A separate approach will be used for arsenic, a naturally occurring element in waters throughout the state. Because the current standard for arsenic is set below levels that occur naturally, the governor proposes using the federal drinking water standard for arsenic.