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Environment

Inslee Pushes Toxics Reduction Bill As Wash. Proposes Updated Fish Consumption Rate

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Elaine Thompson
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AP Photo
FILE - A native fisherman displays a salmon he pulled from his net on the Duwamish River, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011, in Seattle.

Eating too many fish from Washington state waters can make you sick. That’s the idea behind the updated fish consumption rule that has been formally proposed after two years of heated debate.

The new fish consumption rule will require dischargers to keep local waters clean enough that people can safely eat a serving of fish a day, rather than just one per month. 

The state is under orders from the federal government to finalize the rules this year. Otherwise, the Environmental Protection Agency says it will come up with a plan for Washington state.

As the state Department of Ecology formally proposed the change Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee also tied it to legislation aimed at reducing toxics from other unregulated sources. 

Rob Duff, a senior policy advisor for the governor, says tightening the fish consumption standard will fulfill federal requirements under the Clean Water Act. But he says there are many other unaddressed toxics that come from products rather than industrial polluters.

“If we don’t get at the unique distributed sources that are now coming from all of the products we use, the cars we drive, then we really will be missing the boat and not be as effective as we can be,” Duff said during a conference call with reporters. 

The toxics include chemicals in everything from shampoos to plastics, to roofing materials, said Duff. And awareness of their effects on local ecology wasn't as widespread when the Clean Water Act was written.

"Over the past 40 years ... things have changed in how pollution is discharged in our streams and rivers and Puget Sound, and our air and our soil. And we need to acknowledge that," Duff said.

Inslee’s bill would give the state Department of Ecology new authority to come up with a list of chemicals that raise concerns and then work with manufacturers on solutions ranging from public education to potential bans on the worst offenders, especially where feasible alternatives exist.

The governor has said he won’t finalize the new fish consumption rule without legislative action on these other toxics. Public hearings on the new water quality standards are scheduled for early March. 

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