Ecology Acknowledges Current Water Quality Criteria Applied in Washington are Protective of Human Health

Published Feb 11, 2013

In its third Water Quality Forum on water quality human health criteria held on February 8, 2013, the Department of Ecology explained the state of Washington’s current risk level policy to protect human health from exposure to carcinogens in surface water and fish tissue. The state policy is the same as EPA’s national guidance which was developed to ensure as close as possible to zero increased risk of cancer in the criteria. Ecology reviewed the basis for the current criteria and explained that the criteria are protective of human health from exposure to carcinogens in our waters and at fish consumption rates up to 650 grams per day.

This is an important announcement in light of Ecology’s recently published Fish Consumption Rate Technical Support Document describing fish consumption rates for high fish consumers in the state of between 175 and 250 grams per day. This means that as the state continues to review the human health criteria it starts from the position that current standards are protective of public health and defensible under federal and state law. There is much work ahead in evaluating the factors that go into deriving the criteria for carcinogens including whether the risk policy should be revised. Ecology also intends to conduct a significant review of the criteria for non-carcinogen toxics. For more information, contact James Tupper at

  • To view Ecology’s presentation on risk levels, click here.
  • To view Ecology’s website for the human health criteria review, click here.