Washingtonians Could Safely Eat More Fish Under New Water Pollution Rules

Jul 10, 2014
Originally published on July 9, 2014 1:45 pm

Washington's pollution standards would be made much tougher -- making water clean enough that people can safely eat a daily serving of locally caught fish and shellfish -- under a plan laid out by Gov. Jay Inslee.

The governor announced Wednesday that he wants Washington to set the same fish-consumption standards that guide water pollution rules in Oregon.

As a consequence, waters in Washington would be clean enough that people can consume 175 grams of fish a day, up from the current standard of 6.5 grams a day.

"It protects people for whom fish is a staple, including tribal members, Asian pacific islanders, and recreational fishers," Inslee said of the standards he proposed.

Industries and cities that must comply with water pollution standards have been lobbying against the tougher standards. Inslee acknowledged in announcing his new proposed rules that this was a "troublesome and tricky political problem," but said he is confident the new, tougher standards do more than just deliver a political fix.

Inslee said the issue has been framed "as a choice between protecting human health and protecting our economy. I reject that choice, because both values are essential to the state of Washington and our future. It really is not an either-or situation between the environment and the economy."

"We've found a better way to protect the health of all Washingtonians, including those who eat locally caught fish as regular part of their regular diet," Inslee said. "These tougher standards…will demand more of local government and industry. But I'm confident these can be done without damage to our very vibrant Washington state economy."

Inslee said most of Washington's new pollution standards will be more protective than those currently in place.

"If we do this, we will make our waters cleaner and safer and we will in fact reduce Washingtonians' risk of having cancer and other harmful effects," Inslee said.

Inslee said he plans to have rules drafted by September. He intends to put a full package of toxics reductions initiatives, including a push for rain gardens and permeable pavement, and advancements in green chemistry, before the 2015 Legislature. A final rule would be in place after the session ends.

We will be updating this story today.

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