Today, the state of Washington released its revised water quality standards, including revisions intended to protect human health. The rule is a step forward after years of delay, but it is deficient when compared to federal guidelines and rules proposed by EPA for Washington. “The tribes expect EPA to hold Washington’s proposed standards accountable to the bar they have already established,” said Lorraine Loomis, chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

“We think EPA’s rule is more protective and should be adopted by the state,” Loomis said. “It is consistent with the best available science and better addresses some of the most toxic chemicals such as PCBs, arsenic and mercury. Under the state’s rule, standards for PCBs, mercury and dioxin would remain largely status quo and standards for arsenic would become less protective.”

EPA proposed its own standards after years of delay by both the state Department of Ecology and the federal government in adopting rule revisions that would more accurately depict tribal fish consumption. Tribes are especially concerned about the outcome of this rule because tribal members routinely consume far more fish and shellfish than most residents.

“Now, it’s up to EPA to keep a firm hand on the bar that it has set and ensure that water quality standards are reviewed, improved and completed this year to meet the human health needs of everyone who lives here,” Loomis said.