New rules adopted on state fish consumption standards

The on Monday adopted a “water quality rule” based on new standards and how much fish a Washington resident can eat per day without getting cancer.

The “fish consumption rule” is an update to the Washington water quality standards for toxic materials.

The new ruling is based on an average consumption rate of 175 grams per day and a one-in-1 million cancer risk rate. This means if you eat approximately 6 ounces of fish a day from Washington waters for 70 years, you would have a one-in-1 million chance of developing cancer beyond your current risk.

The standards set pollution limits for businesses and municipalities that discharge wastewater and are based, in part, on the amount of toxics contained in the fish that people eat.

“We believe our new rule is strong, yet reasonable. It sets standards that are protective and achievable,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon. “With this rule now complete, we will continue to press forward to reduce and eliminate toxics from every-day sources.”

Facts at a glance about new rule

  • Updates standards for 97 chemicals. Previously, the federal rule that Washington relied on covered 85 chemicals.
  • Sets 88 marine and 73 freshwater standards that are equally or more protective than the current federal standards, and sets new standards for pollutants not currently regulated.
  • Sets an average fish consumption rate of 175 grams per day and a one-in-1 million cancer risk rate. This means if you eat 175 grams of fish a day from Washington waters for 70 years, you would have a one-in-1 million chance of developing cancer beyond your current risk. The initial 2015 draft rule used the same fish portion with a one in 100,000 cancer risk rate.
  • Maintains the current standards for PCBs, makes no changes for mercury, and aligns arsenic with the federal drinking water standard.
  • Clarifies language on how combined sewer-stormwater treatment plants can implement the new standards.

The EPA has 60 days to approve the new rules.

Photo by M. Janicki

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