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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

New proposal on water standards coming today

OLYMPIA -- Gov. Jay Inslee is set to release a proposal to change the state's water quality standards at noon today, and already both sides of the debate are warning that it could be bad, if not downright terrible.

The environmental group Earthjustice is saying the devil may be in the detail, with confusing numbers that make things look stricter but really aren't.

Mark Schoesler, the Senate Republican leader, is saying the new standards must balance cleaner water with family budgets and jobs.

At the heart of the new rules will be the "fish consumption standards", which estimate how much fish, shellfish and other river-lake-seafood people eat. The current rules are set with a daily consumption rate of 6.5 grams, a little less than a quarter ounce or about what you'd find on one fancy canape if the chef isn't skimping too much on the good stuff. Put another way, that's about 7 ounces a month, or about the size of that pricey Copper River salmon fillet that cost you an arm and a leg at the restaurant last month.

Obviously, some people eat way more fish than that. But it also matters what kind of fish, and where it comes from. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

. . . For example, if you mainly eat farm-raised Atlantic salmon because you can buy it on sale at Costco, Washington's clean water standards don't have anything to do your intake. If your kids will only eat Gorton's frozen fish sticks, same deal because those fish likely have never set fin in this part of the world.

But if you're a member of a Native American who eats fish from a river that carries the same name as your tribe -- as well as the biggest city in Eastern Washington, the county that city is in and the mountain nearby --  and that's your major source of protein, you may be consuming the stated monthly dose every day. And some of the pollutants in that river tend to build up in the plants and little critters the fish eat, and then get stored in the fat and muscle of the fish that people eat.  

If you're a strictly red-meat-and-potatoes kind of family, or a vegan, you probably don't care about this at all. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does. It's been on Washington's case to upgrade its water quality standards for years now and what Inslee is expected to announce today at noon isn't the end of that process but it is a big step.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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