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Inslee directs Ecology to rewrite clean water rules

by caprecord

Gov. Jay Inslee is directing state Ecology officials to rewrite a proposed clean water rule that determines the level of pollutants allowed in the state’s waterways.

The new rule is designed to align with federal recommendations in an effort to maintain state control over the process. If the state doesn’t act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will issue its own rule.

“That has left us with a choice,” Inslee said Thursday at a press conference in Seattle. He said the state can either adopt a federal rule that is “extremely stringent and very inflexible,” or write its own rule that is “reasonable and works with our growing economy.”

“This is our state and it should be our clean water rule,” Inslee said.

The clean water rule is tied to a fish consumption rate that assumes residents can safely eat fish that is caught in the state’s rivers, lakes and streams. The state’s current rate is 6.5 grams of fish per day, or about one bite of fish per day.

The EPA recommended in September that Washington significantly increase the fish consumption rate to 175 grams a day, or about one small fish filet per day.

“This rate accounts for local data, reflects input from tribes in Washington and protects fish consumers downstream in Oregon,” which also uses 175 grams a day to determine safe levels of pollution, the EPA wrote in its September proposal.

Inslee’s proposal matches the federal recommendation of 175 grams a day. That comes with a theoretical cancer risk rate of one in a million chance of developing cancer if a person ate 175 grams of fish every day for 70 years.

Ecology officials say they plan to write a rule that will provide more flexibility to industries, municipalities and manufacturers than the federal version. Ecology director Maia Bellon said it would consider things like “intake credits,” which would adjust a company’s obligation if the water that the company draws is already contaminated.

EPA will halt its rulemaking process if Washington submits its own rule, Inslee said.

“During this process, I heard over and over that people in businesses and governments wanted to maintain control over this process,” Inslee said. “Not to turn our future over to the federal government.”