Water | Ecotrope

Cleaning up toxic water so we can eat more fish

Ecotrope | Jan. 6, 2011 3:34 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:42 p.m.

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Oregon Department of Environmental Quality just announced a series of public hearings on new water quality standards that are designed to reduce toxics in the fish we eat from Oregon streams and lakes. The state agency has been working with the Environmental Protection Agency to design the right water pollution limits for the amount of fish Oregonians eat. In June of 2010, the EPA rejected DEQ’s toxic water pollution rules because they were based on a fish consumption rate that was deemed to be too low.

The new proposed regulations – which crack down on releases of the banned pesticide DDT as well as a harmful plasticizer, a pesticide compound, a fossil fuel byproduct and an industrial chemical – are set based on the goal of protecting people who eat 175 grams of fish a day (as opposed to 17.5 grams a day under the last set of proposed rules and 6.5 grams a day under the existing rules). They could add costs for cities and facilities that have water pollution permits from the state, but the upside is they’re designed to allow everyone in the state to eat more fish without worrying about getting cancer or other illnesses from the toxics fish absorb from lakes and streams.

From DEQ:

“The revised rules will affect cities and facilities that discharge one or more regulated pollutants to state waters. These pollutants may include methylmercury (a byproduct from the burning of fossil fuels) and bis (2-ethylexyl) phthalate, a plasticizer. Forestry, agricultural, construction and other activities could also be affected by these rules, if they release toxic pollutants such as the pesticide compound endosulfan, PCBs and the now-banned but persistent toxic pesticides DDT and aldrin into lakes, rivers and streams.

“These proposed revisions are necessary to protect human health,” said DEQ Director Dick Pedersen. “Toxic pollutants can accumulate in fish that people may eat. Some of these substances may lead to cancer, hinder human development and cause other health problems. These pollutants can also affect the quality of water that communities rely on for drinking water. Reducing the level of these toxics in our water makes for healthier, more livable communities and, as a result, a healthier economy. It is important that any water quality rules are implementable, and we believe through working with a broad group of stakeholders we have a proposed rule package that achieves that end.”

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