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Washington Enviro Groups Intend to Sue EPA Over Inadequate State Fish Consumption Rates

July 23, 2013 | KUOW
CONTRIBUTED BY:
Ashley Ahearn

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  • The current estimate of how much fish people eat in Washington State, a key criteria for setting water quality standards, is less than one-tenth the figure used by Oregon. credit: Jason Alcorn/InvestigateWest
The current estimate of how much fish people eat in Washington State, a key criteria for setting water quality standards, is less than one-tenth the figure used by Oregon. | credit: Jason Alcorn/InvestigateWest | rollover image for more

SEATTLE, Wash. — Several environmental groups say they will sue the Environmental Protection Agency to get it to hurry up and raise the fish consumption rate in Washington. The rate helps determine how clean state waterways need to be to protect the health of people who eat fish caught there.

The Washington Department of Ecology has dragged its feet in setting a realistic fish consumption rate, say environmental groups including Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, EarthJustice and others. The groups on Tuesday filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the federal Environmental Protection Agency to get it involved in raising the fish consumption rate to accurately reflect how much fish Washingtonians actually consume.

Right now the Washington Department of Ecology bases its water quality standards –- for contaminants like mercury and PCBs — on the assumption that people here consume 6.5 grams of fish per day. But several studies and surveys have shown that certain groups, including Washington tribes and Pacific Islanders, can consume between 200-800 grams of fish per day.

Oregon raised its fish consumption rate to 175 grams per day in 2011.

“It’s our right under the Clean Water Act to expect to be able to eat clean and safe seafood,” said Chris Wilke, executive director of Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, one of several environmental groups who intend to sue the EPA. “To the extent that it’s not available to us something has been taken from us.”

The environmental groups say it’s time for the feds to step in because the State Department of Ecology has failed to raise the rate. The Department came close to revising the standard under Governor Gregoire, but the process fell apart suddenly. Reporting by InvestigateWest revealed that complaints about the more stringent water quality standards that would ensue lead to Ecology scrapping years of work revising the fish consumption standard.

The Environmental Protection Agency declined to comment on the pending litigation.

© 2013 KUOW
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