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fish consumption

In a Sept. 28, 2011 file photo, a native fisherman displays a salmon he pulled from his net on the Duwamish River, in Seattle
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press (file)

A coalition of environmental groups, commercial fishermen and the Makah Tribe are suing the federal Environmental Protection Agency over its decision to roll back water quality regulations in Washington state. At issue are human health standards that the EPA itself forced the state to adopt just a few years ago.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Among the many wonders at the Ballard Locks is a fish ladder. The ladder encourages threatened salmon to swim up or downstream, to keep them safe from boats passing through the canal.

Elaine Thompson, File / AP Photo

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a final rule on the amount of toxic chemicals allowed in Washington state’s rivers and bays under the Clean Water Act. The standard is sometimes called the “fish consumption rule” because it is based in part on the amount of fish people consume. The water must be clean enough to safely eat fish caught there.

San Diego native Megan Olbur didn't grow up eating much seafood beyond tuna sandwiches, fish sticks or the occasional salmon dinners her parents made. But in 2015, when Olbur became pregnant with a daughter of her own, she heeded the advice of her physician and deliberately began adding more seafood to her diet as a way to boost brain development and to ensure the health of her growing baby.

It turns out, she wasn't alone in upping her fish fare.

Ted S. Warren / AP Images


TED S. WARREN / AP Photo

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is making good on its promise to put forward a clean water rule for Washington, in case the state doesn’t come up with its own plan in time.

At issue is how much fish the government says is safe to eat, if it’s caught in polluted water. 

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

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. 

Washington is slowly moving ahead with a long-delayed plan to update its water quality rules. Tuesday's will be the first public meeting on Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposal to dramatically increase the fish consumption rate, which determines how clean discharged water must be. But some say the proposal doesn’t go far enough.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Gov. Jay Inslee has proposed dramatically increasing the fish consumption rate that drives clean water standards in the state.

Inslee said Wednesday he plans to set the fish consumption rate at 175 grams a day, which would protect people who eat about a serving a day of fish. Current water quality standards assume only one serving of fish per month, or 6.5 grams a day.

What does the amount of fish people eat have to do with whether big employers thrive in Washington state?

Fish consumption is at the heart of the state Department of Ecology's quest for compliance with the federal Clean Water Act, which aims to protect human health. Fish absorb toxins from polluted water. So when people eat it, their health might be at risk. That risk increases with more fish in their diet. 

Right now, the state Department of Ecology officially assumes that people eat only about one meal of fish per month—a standard that’s known to be outdated and insufficient to protect human health.

How much fish is safe to eat? That’s the key question in a federal lawsuit filed today

The plaintiffs are trying to force stricter limits on pollution in local waters. A coalition of groups including clean water advocates, tribes, and the commercial fishing industry have filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency.

WSK_2005 / Flickr

Some fish in the Columbia River aren’t safe to eat, according to advisories issued Monday by health officials in Washington and Oregon.

The warnings do not apply to ocean-going fish like salmon and steelhead.