Olympia's industrial run-off regulation hubbub: Much ado about nothing?

The Department of Ecology hasn't put forward its new plan to regulate industrial runoff yet. But that's not stopping labor leaders from getting up-in-arms about it.
A pollock processing line in Alaska where observers monitor for any salmon bycatch.

A pollock processing line in Alaska where observers monitor for any salmon bycatch. Photo: NOAA Fisheries

A coalition of labor leaders slammed an expected tightening of water-quality standards on industrial discharge in Washington state at an Olympia press conference Monday, contending those measures will shut down plants and eliminate jobs.

"The policy out in front is too extreme. It's impractical,” said Chip Elliott, vice president of the Washington Machinists Council.

There’s just one problem: Though an effort to design tightened standards has been underway for several months, Gov. Jay Inslee's administration has not yet proposed any specific plans for doing so.

"They are reacting to something that doesn't exist," said Inslee spokesman David Postman.

At issue are the levels of industrial pollutants that should be discharged into the state's waters – a balancing act between increasing the level of carcinogens in local seafood and the feasibility for industry players of complying with new, tighter standards.  

Currently federal limits assume that a person eats slightly more than a half-ounce of fish a day. In Washington, that number is just a quarter-ounce of fish each day — roughly the weight of a saltine cracker. The risk of getting cancer from a quarter-ounce of waste-exposed fish is roughly one in 1 million.

The diet of the average Puget Sound Native American though includes about a quarter-pound of fish a day, the equivalent weight of a good-sized hamburger. A study of Pacific Islanders living in Puget Sound showed the same fish consumption.

Inslee's Department of Ecology isn't expected to make recommendations on new standards until several weeks from now. Those recommendations will be subject to public review and a public hearing before they’re sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for final approval.

The issue has been a contentious one among members of the Washington Legislature in the past. Boeing’s 2013 contention that stricter requirements would force them to make expensive upgrades was a factor in the Legislature’s budget deadlock that year – a disagreement that almost closed down much of state government. The Department of Ecology's recommendations will not be subject to legislative approval.

John Stang is a longtime Inland Northwest newspaper reporter who earned a Masters of Communications in Digital Media degree at the University of Washington. He can be reached by writing editor@crosscut.com.


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Comments:

Posted Tue, Jun 17, 7:56 a.m. Inappropriate

This is journalism??? "The diet of the average Puget Sound Native American though includes about a quarter pound of fish a day..."

"Nothing to see here, folks. Move along."

BlueLight

Posted Tue, Jun 17, 7:24 p.m. Inappropriate

I doubt that the diet of the 'average' Puget Sound Native American includes any fish per day ... what kind of a study was this? Sounds fishy to me.

Posted Tue, Jun 17, 8 a.m. Inappropriate

Gotta say, by the time these rules finally get issued, it will be a non-news event. What more could there possibly be to say than hasn't already been said by everybody who has something to say??!!

Saratoga

Posted Tue, Jun 17, 11:48 a.m. Inappropriate

Looks like the Democrat Party is choosing public sector unions over private sector unions. Unattainable water quality standards are a boon to two of The Party's big check writers: public sector unions and indian tribes. The former get rewarded as professional problem solvers; the latter as professional victims. Sorry, machinists, maybe you should've sent more money to The Party.

BlueLight

Posted Tue, Jun 17, 3:49 p.m. Inappropriate

When you start using using the proper adjective instead of the intentionally insulting verision, maybe somebody will pay attention to the content of your arguments.

louploup

Posted Tue, Jun 17, 3:54 p.m. Inappropriate

If that would keep you, I don't want you. Keep to your Party slogans and your lock step.

BlueLight

Posted Tue, Jun 17, 12:48 p.m. Inappropriate

Yeah, well what if Alaska were to use the same reasoning and assume people ate only one small fillet once a month? This, at the same time the FDA promotes dietary replacement of saturated fat with fish omega-3 fatty acids, i.e., pregnant women "should" eat two or three fish meals a WEEK.

Today WSJ: "FDA softens fish limits"

afreeman

Posted Tue, Jun 17, 1:28 p.m. Inappropriate

We're going to tighten our water quality standards so that the fish is safe to eat.

Except over 90% of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported.

And the vast majority of seafood consumed in the U.S. comes from the ocean.

http://www.fishwatch.gov/features/top10seafoods_and_sources_10_10_12.html

BlueLight

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