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New water standards may spare Boeing

Unless the state goes with most extreme estimate of fish consumption, the plane maker shouldn't see any troubles in the coming years, state Ecology says.
Sen. Doug Ericksen

Sen. Doug Ericksen

Unless Washington goes with the most extreme option, water-quality targets based on fish consumption studies should spare Boeing any troubles in the next few years. That assessment came from a state official on Thursday.

The water-quality issue is taking on new urgency amid concerns that the Boeing Co. will put assembly of a planned new 777X airliner elsewhere. In last spring's legislative session, the Boeing Co. expressed concerns about an upcoming change in state regulations on the level of pollutants that industrial facilities are allowed to discharge into the water. Boeing contended stricter discharge requirements could lead to expensive upgrades to discharge systems.

Thirty-six states have their own specific standards on carcinogen-laced discharges and fish consumption. Washington is currently one of 14 states without with such standards — meaning the state follows federal limits set in 1992. Washington is in the preliminary stage of putting together its own standards and rules on this subject.

Boeing sought a study on the numbers and types of fish consumed in Washington, and an accounting of who caught the fish and where. House Democrats wanted the new regulations installed in part because of concerns about discharges potentially affecting the health of the fish eaten by local tribes, whose diets are heavily fish-oriented.

This is a satellite issue in Washington trying to convince Boeing to manufacture the new 777X airliner in the state. However, Boeing's main wishes were an $8.7 billion tax exemption package, which it got, and its biggest union accepting cuts in pensions and benefits, which it did not get. Now, other states are wooing Boeing.

Right now, legislators are wrestling with how strict Washington's quality standards should be for discharges' effects on water quality. Should the new standard be stricter than the feds'? Should Washington's standards be attuned to tribes that eat lots of fish or to a statewide average of fish consumption? What are acceptable odds on increased cancer risks?

On Thursday, Kelly Susewind, manager of the Washington Department of Ecology's water quality program, briefed the Washington Senate's Energy & Environment Committee on potential regulatory targets.

Currently, the federal limits are based on assuming that a person eats slightly more than a half-ounce of fish a day. Washington's current standards assume that a Washingtonian eats a quarter-ounce of fish a day — less than the federal assumption and roughly the weight a saltine cracker. The risk of getting cancer from a quarter-ounce of waste-exposed fish is roughly one in 1 million.

If the state tailors its standards to an average of the fish eaten by three Puget Sound tribes, the proposed standards would assume each person would eat a quarter-pound of fish a day, the equivalent weight of a good-size hamburger. A study of Pacific Islanders living in Puget Sound showed the same fish consumption, Susewind said. He added that if the standards focus on assuring the safety of the tribes' consumptions, almost everyone else in Washington would also be categorized as eating fish at a safe level.

Another possible approach is Oregon's. Oregon based its standard on someone eating one-third pound of fish a day. The most extreme standards — which would trigger near-future Boeing discharge improvements, Susewind said — that the ecology department found in the United States assumed a person eats a half-pound of fish a day.

After the briefing, Susewind said the assumptions that a person eats a quarter-pound or a third of a pound of fish a day should not affect the permitting of Boeing's current discharges at its Renton, Everett and Frederickson plants — with the caveat that increasing those assumption could provide foundations for future additional efforts to increase standards. And those could require fix-it work.

Boeing's discharges are within the state's standards on PCBs, mercury and arsenic, Susewind said. The corporation is having trouble with copper and zinc discharges harming fish, but not at levels that would affect humans, he said.


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Comments:

Posted Fri, Nov 22, 5:58 a.m. Inappropriate

I for one am getting damn sick and tired of this inane, pointless, meaningless side issue about how much fish people might or might not eat in a day. There is only one issue: Why are we permitting Boeing to pollute our waterways -- to any degree -- at the taxpayers' expense?

Boeing needs to clean up the mess it made and cease further pollution. Period. Full stop. End of discussion. The only negotiations should be over how much and how soon. Here's a suggestion for the governor and the legislature: Tell Boeing that if they move the 777X out of state, they'll get hit with the whole cleanup bill, all at once, and face criminal charges and penalties if they fail to comply. If they are leaving anyway, as many people have said, then they shouldn't be allowed to skate away and leave our waterways for us to clean up.

Here's another suggestion: Voters in the 42nd District should remove Doug Ericksen, the polluters' friend, at the next available opportunity.

ivan

Posted Fri, Nov 22, 11:23 a.m. Inappropriate

"Boeing's discharges are within the state's standards on PCBs, mercury and arsenic, Susewind said. The corporation is having trouble with copper and zinc discharges harming fish, but not at levels that would affect humans, he said."

So how does Boeing do against the federal standards that supposedly are in effect in Wa.? Why are we after run-off from streets and the overall acidification of fish habitats and then dismissing consideration of harm to fish? More disconnect, more deep denial.

Looks like no worry about Boeing fleeing to Oregon. How do "allowed" pollution standards of states being courted compare with those not?

afreeman

Posted Sun, Nov 24, 3:26 p.m. Inappropriate

Correction: "cities being courted," which brings to mind what the organizations of cities touted in Benjamin Barber's new "If Mayors Ruled the World" would, could, should, or are doing (for all I know) about the efforts of international bullies such as Boeing to play one against another as if they were states or nations, both inherently so it seems destined to "bump against each other more often than cooperate."

afreeman

Posted Fri, Nov 22, 7:16 a.m. Inappropriate

How many times are we going to dance the dance of allowing pollution for the sake of jobs? Previous generations made environmental sacrifices at the nuclear reactors at Hanford and the aluminium smelters in Tacoma that we're still living with, and now we're debating how much Boeing can pollute instead of how to stop them from polluting at all.

Posted Fri, Nov 22, 9:35 a.m. Inappropriate

Do you really think it is possible for Boeing to not pollute "at all"? Do you think it is possible for YOU to not pollute "at all"?

We need reality-based environmental standards. Those who believe we can have our cake and eat it, too, shouldn't be allowed in the discussion.

BlueLight

Posted Fri, Nov 22, 12:32 p.m. Inappropriate

Having your cake and eating it too isn't worth much if the cake is laced with mercury and arsenic - both metaphorically and literally.

Posted Fri, Nov 22, 1:14 p.m. Inappropriate

You didn't answer the question. Do you think it is possible for Boeing to not pollute "at all"?

BlueLight

Posted Fri, Nov 22, 1:39 p.m. Inappropriate

Not to mention the fact that these regulations apply to municipal wastewater treatment facilities. Can we go to the bathroom without polluting? I hope no one is taking prescription drugs...

Posted Fri, Nov 22, 2:06 p.m. Inappropriate

We all have impacts. Its a by-product of living. It's why the Democrat's red-carpet and sanctuary policies for illegal immigrants is contrary to their purported environmental goals. Oregon State University has determined the number one threat to Pacific Northwest salmon and their habitats is increased immigration into the region; the vast majority of which comes from outside the U.S. and Canada. Yet The Party rolls out the welcome mat. Even as they (and their shallow-thinking minions) decry Boeing et al for environmental degradations.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

BlueLight

Posted Fri, Nov 22, 2:36 p.m. Inappropriate

Yes, it is possible to get boeing to not pollute had it not been for the previous Governors Locke and Gregoire, that exempted any attempt to reduce stormwater pollution from Boeing's sites, WADOT was exempt also.

Backdoor deals eliminated any chance of creating jobs and protecting Puget Sound. I have no proof of course other than no effort was made to initiate tangible reduction of pollution from stormwater runoff.

salmonjim

Posted Fri, Nov 22, 2:50 p.m. Inappropriate

"Reduction" is one thing, "at all" is another. The issue is the "at all" and the people who hold that as a standard.

BlueLight

Posted Fri, Nov 22, 6:57 p.m. Inappropriate

I suspect (without proof) that there is more pollution, in the form of run off from pesticides and herbicides that has been applied to the farms, gardens, lawns and golf courses in Western Washington, than from Boeing. I'd like to see all the parties that pollute reined in. Yesterday would have been a decade late but I'd settle for tomorrow.

Djinn

Posted Sat, Nov 23, 4:47 a.m. Inappropriate

when you keep voting in people that give away billions in taxbreaks to corporations, the corporations in turn finance people running for office that are puppets. We need public campaign financing so politicians run on their reputation, integrity, accountability and trust. Then companies like Boeing wouldn't get away with these types of shenanigans.

otherwise we will continue to bankrupt ourselves, the trickle down effect.

salmonjim

Posted Mon, Nov 25, 11 a.m. Inappropriate

Right on, Salmon Jim! I think we're mainly talking about the Duwamish River when water pollution, fish consumption, and Boeing are mentioned in the same sentence. What a poor, sad river this has become! Many people still eat fish out of the Duwamish, and not mere ounces, either.
Giving a King's ransom to Boeing out of the State coffers (again), to entice them to stay here is disgusting. Why not put some wigs and makeup on for Boeing, and show them a REAL GOOD TIME? C'mon Doug E., get out your high-heels for "the cause"- a "Blue Light" special, wink, wink.

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