Better water quality standards protect everyone

Earlier this week, Jim Peters, tribal councilmember and vice-chair of the Squaxin Island Tribe, spoke in front of a legislative committee about the state’s most recent draft water quality standards.

You can watch Peters’ entire testimony here.

Peters pointed out that the tribe’s fish consumption rate is nearly twice what the state is considering in their new standards, even if you don’t count how many clams and oysters Squaxin Island tribal members eat. Therefore, the tribe is concerned about how protective the state’s standards might be:

The tribe’s bottom line is that we want a rule that ensures we have the cleanest water possible, not only for ourselves and our families, but for the citizens of Washington. We need the fish to be healthy to do that. The tribes have been working to change the water quality standards for many years.

We support EPA’s rule because it is better. It is going to protect the most people. It is going to protect our children, our kids and our elders. Those are the ones that these chemicals are going to impact even more.

One of the things that came out of our study is that kids under six years old eat five times more fish than adults do. And, my own personal family, my kids come home after school, and if we have smoked salmon they’re eating smoked salmon as a snack. If our meal the night before was fish, they’re either taking that as lunch during that day and also eating that as a snack after school.

Lorraine Loomis, chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, pointed out a few weeks ago that the state should defer to more protective standards already proposed by the federal government:

Draft water quality standards released today by Gov. Inslee are a step forward but not as protective as those already put forth by EPA.


The treaty Indian tribes in western Washington are encouraging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to stay strong in their oversight of the development of water quality standards that protect everyone who lives in Washington.


The federal agency stepped in last year after the state failed to update water quality standards as required by the Clean Water Act. The state admits that the current 20-year-old standards don’t adequately protect our health. Tribes are especially concerned because tribal members routinely consume far more fish and shellfish than most residents.


EPA’s proposal would more strictly regulate some of the most toxic chemicals such as PCBs, arsenic and mercury. These three chemicals are responsible for many fish consumption health advisories in the state.


EPA’s proposal also uses the best available science and follows the most recently updated federal guidance on those toxins.