Environment | Health | Opinion

Russ Kepfer: Washington water quality plan doesn't help tribes






Water flows through the Elwha River following the removal of a dam. Photo from Facebook

Russ Kepfer, the vice chairman of the Lower Elhwa Klallam Tribe, discusses water quality standards being proposed by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D):
After decades of foot-dragging by previous governors, Gov. Jay Inslee recently unveiled his plan to revise our state’s ridiculously outdated water quality standards. While the plan offers a small increase in protection from 70 percent of the toxic chemicals regulated by the federal Clean Water Act, it maintains the inadequate status quo for the other 30 percent.

At best, Inslee’s plan offers minimal progress in reducing contamination; at worst, it provides a tenfold increase in our cancer risk rate.

Water quality standards are based in large part on how much fish and shellfish we eat. The more we eat, the cleaner the water needs to be. Two numbers drive our water quality standards: our fish consumption rate and our cancer risk rate from pollution in our waters.

Inslee’s plan rightly increases our fish consumption rate from the current 6.5 grams per day (about one serving of fish or shellfish per month) to 175 grams per day (at least one meal of fish or shellfish per day).

Support for that amount is a huge concession by Tribes. Most Tribal members, as well as Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, eat far more than 175 grams of fish and shellfish per day. Current studies show daily consumption rates of 236 to 800 grams. Even those numbers represent suppressed rates. If more fish and shellfish were available for harvest, more would be eaten.

While giving a little with one hand, Inslee takes away a lot with the other, increasing our “acceptable” cancer risk rate tenfold, from one in a million to one in 100,000. Do you think anyone who gets cancer from the pollution in our fish and shellfish would find that risk rate acceptable? Would you?

Get the Story:
Russ Kepfer: Inslee’s water quality plan is too little, too late (The North Kitsap Herald 8/10)