Human Health Water Quality Criteria's Fish Consumption Rate Tied to Treaty Rights by EPA Administrator

Published Jul 08, 2014

Are treaty rights at issue if Washington adopts human health water quality criteria based on 175 grams a day and risk policy of one in one hundred thousand?

Dennis McLerran, the regional administrator for EPA Region 10, makes this assertion in a  Seattle Times article today.  McLerran is  quoted as saying, “Some of our high fish consumers when they signed on to transfer (their) lands, signed on to continue to harvest and eat fish, and when and if they can’t, then the treaty right is a bit vacuous.”

Region 10 has been scrambling for the past three months to justify this position as Washington nears a decision on state human health water quality criteria. Ecology staff has presented one option for the criteria based on 175 grams a day and a one in one hundred thousand risk policy.  EPA national policy assumes that criteria based on this approach represent an essentially zero increased risk of cancer from exposure at the resulting criteria levels.  EPA policy further assumes that there is no difference in human health risk from exposure at a risk level of one in one hundred thousand or one in one million. After all, when you get to zero, anything less than zero is still zero.

What is really a bit vacuous here – and probably unlawful under federal and state law – is staking out an extreme position that would cripple Washington businesses and local governments without any basis in science or policy.  For more information on the upcoming fish consumption rate, contact James Tupper at