Being Frank: Tribes outraged by EPA move to roll back improved water quality standards

Being Frank: Tribes outraged by EPA move to roll back improved water quality standards

Treaty Indian tribes in western Washington state are outraged that the Environmental Protection Agency is advancing the agenda of a small group of industrial polluters to undermine public health, science and decades of hard work by rolling back the water quality standards that we have been implementing for almost three years.

The 2016 standards were supposed to make sure that seafood from Washington waters was safe for everyone to eat. EPA’s reversal no longer ensures that the human health criteria adequately protect Washington fish and shellfish consumers – including tribal members – from exposure to toxic pollutants.

Our health should not be unjustly jeopardized by increased levels of known dangerous pollutants like PCBs and dioxins that accumulate in the environment and cause real harm to people, orcas, salmon and the entire ecology of the region. PCBs and dioxins are the source of most public health warnings in our state regarding fish and shellfish consumption.

Industry wants to make this issue about select groups of people like tribes, Asian and Pacific Islanders and others who consume more fish and shellfish than other residents. The truth is that this issue is about all of us and everything we depend on.

Under the federal Clean Water Act, tribes and states – not the federal government – are responsible for setting water quality standards under their jurisdictions. EPA is allowed to revise existing standards only when they are deemed not strong enough. That’s not the case here because our current standards are among the most protective of human health in the nation.

That’s why we will fight this move with everything we have. We will stand with all 29 federally recognized tribes in Washington, the entire Democratic congressional delegation, the governor, attorney general’s office, environmental groups and many others who oppose EPA’s actions.

Tribes applaud Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson for filing a lawsuit challenging EPA’s decision to roll back our water quality standards. “Trump’s EPA cannot change important water quality protections at the whim of industry interests. It’s not only disruptive to Washington’s environmental efforts over the past two years, it’s a clear violation of the Clean Water Act,” he said in announcing the lawsuit.

PCBs and dioxins are known carcinogens and we are going to have to deal with them one way or the other. The question is whether we want to do that when they’re still in the water or after they have entered our bodies and those of the fish, shellfish, orca and other species we are working so hard to protect.

Why are polluting industries trying to poison all of us? Simply for their short-term economic profit. In the process, EPA’s decisions threaten the integrity of the entire Washington state seafood economy.

Industry and EPA should be ashamed of their actions. It is unconscionable to knowingly allow more cancer-causing and other toxic chemicals to be released in our waters.

Lorraine Loomis is chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. See nwifc.org.

More in Opinion

Guest Opinion: Vaccines, a round in the chamber

It’s 10:25 a.m. on Saturday, June 19, and I’ve just returned from… Continue reading

Don Brunell
Guest opinion: Family tree farms key to cutting greenhouse gases

As climate change concerns grow, researchers are turning to small tree farmers… Continue reading

Crystal Linn
Aging Successfully: Preparing beforehand, a family affair

Have you had the experience, and headache of trying to deal with… Continue reading

Guest opinion: Courts, lawmakers shouldn’t make call on who’s media

Journalists of a certain age — those on the other side of… Continue reading

Bertha Cooper
Think About It: Newsworthy lies?

The big news in recent weeks is Facebook’s announcement that the former… Continue reading

Don Brunell
Guest opinon: Water has greenhouse gas problems

In our zest to quickly switch from gas-powered to battery-operated vehicles and… Continue reading

Kris Johnson is president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s chamber of commerce and manufacturers association.
Guest opinion: Vaccines are a shot in the arm for small business

Early in the pandemic, signs of encouragement started appearing on theater marquees,… Continue reading

Don Brunell
Guest opinion: Land is wild card in Biden’s green gamble

Shortly after President Biden took office, he issued the sweeping executive order… Continue reading

USEPA Photo by Eric Vance. Public domain image
Being Frank: Outdated wastewater facilities undermine water quality gains

We’ve seen some real progress over the past few years in efforts… Continue reading

Bertha Cooper
Think About It: Wardrobe maleficence

It was my birthday. The husband and I took the train to… Continue reading

x
From the Back Nine: Bad juju

I had the good fortune to spend time at the Chito Beach… Continue reading

tsr
Guest opinion: Living, driving in the moment

As Washingtonians, we are a strong and resilient culture encompassed in constant… Continue reading