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WA: Ecology developing new water standards

Capital Press

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. — Washington’s Department of Ecology will pitch new water quality standards this fall.

Surface water quality standards specialist Cheryl Niemi said Ecology is working to formulate two sets of rules — one for human health criteria and for implementation tools.

The human health criteria list includes some pesticides that are currently regulated.

Chemicals can be those used for decades or new ones, like those in pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs).

The discussions also include DDT, an insecticide banned in 1972. It’s no longer in use, but Niemi said it is still present in some soils and fish.

“It’s an old, historic chemical, but those things come back to haunt us,” she said.

PPCPs are any product used by individuals for personal health or cosmetic reasons or by agribusiness to enhance the growth or health of livestock. According to Ecology, they include prescription and over-the counter drugs, veterinary drugs, fragrances, lotions and cosmetics.

Ecology said studies have shown that some pharmaceuticals are present in bodies of water. To date, scientists have found no evidence of adverse human health effects from PPCPs in the environment.

The department held the fourth in a series of seven policy forums March 28 in Spokane Valley, Wash. Niemi focused on Ecology’s work with chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and mercury.

Washington Department of Health toxicologist Dave McBride said fish consumption is the primary exposure most people have to persistent toxic chemicals that can accumulate, like mercury, PCBs and DDT. The department has to balance the risk of adverse health effects with the health benefits that come from eating fish with its advisories and recommended consumption rates.

Ecology’s Spokane River Water Quality Lead Adriane Borgias said some sources are out of the state’s control due to atmospheric deposits from other states and countries.

Kara Rowe, director of outreach for Washington Association of Wheat Growers, said it’s important for agriculture to be part of the process as stakeholders. Farmers gain perspective on what regulators are dealing with in their planning process, she said, and it opens the door for regulators to hear from farmers.

“There’s a lot more factors making impacts on our water quality than just ag,” she said. “We’ve got this whole new element of pollutants they’re still developing criteria around, so we’re just one portion of the puzzle.”

Niemi said farmers should be thinking of issues related to erosion, chemicals entering water bodies down to sediments.

Ecology hasn’t yet focused on non-point source pollution from farms, but Niemi said it will as the policy forums continue.

Ecology aims to have draft language out by this fall, said Ecology water quality section manager Melissa Gildersleeve.

Ecology will presents the new standards for public comment and then adopt them. EPA must approve the standards.


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