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Stricter Revisions for Water Quality Standards Proposed in Oregon

(Beyond Pesticides, February 14, 2011) The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) hosted a public hearing on February 10 on a proposal to give Oregon the nation’s strictest water quality standards. The proposal filed by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) is currently tied in great measure to human consumption of fish. The change intends to improve water quality by changing the state’s assumption of how much fish people eat. Current rules describe for water clean enough to let each Oregon resident eat 6.5 grams of fish per day, however the new rule would raise that amount to 175 grams per day.

According to The World Newspaper, N. Kathryn Brigham, secretary of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, said that members of her tribe consume 389 grams of fish per day, mostly salmon. The 175-gram proposal resulted from negotiations among the department, tribes, and industries.

“The higher fish consumption rate is designed to better protect Oregon’s more sensitive fish consumers,” said Leo Steward, vice-chair of CTUIR board of trustees. “In the past, water quality standards did not protect Indian People. They did not protect our children, our women, our mothers. We must think of the next Seven Generations -what we will pass on them- what they will inherit. They should not face greater health risks for exercising their Treaty Rights-for practicing their religion and for continuing our culture.”

Tribal member Myrna William Tovey has served on the Yellowhawk health board and said she believes toxic chemicals are likely to blame for the high number of tribal members who have cancer. The revised rule will affect cities and facilities that discharge one or more regulated pollutants to state waters. These pollutants would tighten the criteria for 114 toxic pollutants including pesticides. Pesticides are linked to a vast array of serious health problems including birth defects, autism, learning disabilities, reproductive dysfunction, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer. See Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced Disease Database for more information.

“These proposed revisions are necessary to protect human health,” said DEQ Director Dick Pedersen. “Toxic pollutants can accumulate in fish that people may eat. Some of these substances may lead to cancer, hinder human development and cause other health problems. These pollutants can also affect the quality of water that communities rely on for drinking water. Reducing the level of these toxics in our water makes for healthier, more livable communities and, as a result, a healthier economy. It is important that any water quality rules are implementable, and we believe through working with a broad group of stakeholders we have a proposed rule package that achieves that end.”

The new standard might also help restore the wild salmon population in Oregon. According to a lawsuit filed against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in December 2010, EPA have failed to restrict the pesticides from entering wild salmon habitat in Oregon, Washington and California and studies have shown that Wild Salmon exposure to commonly used pesticides continue to detriment the recovery of the salmons’ populations. The researchers concluded that improving water quality conditions by reducing common pollutants could potentially increase the rate of recovery.

The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission will vote on the tougher toxic rules in June.

Beyond Pesticides believes that, in principle, tightening the water quality standards to protect sensitive populations will help reduce the hazards posed by pesticide use, but does not eliminate the use of toxic pesticides that are not necessary given the availability of less and non-toxic methods and products. Pesticide use at any level creates hazardous agricultural practices for the farmworkers and farm families, environmental degradation, and health effects linked to residues in food. For more information, see Beyond Pesticides’ Threatened Waters brochure.

Take Action: Several documents about this rulemaking proposal are available for public comment and may be accessed through DEQ’s website at http://www.deq.state.or.us/wq/standards/toxics.htm (scroll down to “toxics rulemaking”).

The deadline for all comments is Monday, March 21. Comments may be e-mailed, mailed or faxed to DEQ. Send e-mail comments to [email protected]. Mail comments to Andrea Matzke, Oregon DEQ, Water Quality Division, 811 SW Sixth Ave., Portland, OR 97204. Fax comments to Andrea Matzke at 503-229-6037.

Sources: East Oregonian
Oregon DEQ Press Release
The World

Photo Courtesy: Ezra Poundcake


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