As promised last summer, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is inviting comments in January and February on proposed rulemaking to Oregon’s New and Revised Human Health Water Quality for Toxics, which would make the state’s “Fish Consumption Rate” the highest in the country.
The Fish Consumption Rate is a factor used by the state to establish its water quality standards, which set out the amount of pollutants allowed to be discharged into the state’s waterways. Increasing the Fish Consumption Rate likely will result in stricter limitations on pollutant discharge by industry and municipalities.
“The objective is to adopt water quality standards for Oregon that will protect people from adverse health effects as a result of consuming fish and water from Oregon streams and lakes. In addition, the objective of the rulemaking is to allow DEQ and other agencies to implement the water quality standards in a manner that is cost effective and achieves meaningful environmental results,” the Public Hearing Notice says.
DEQ’s current human health toxics criteria are based on a Fish Consumption Rate that does not provide adequate protection for Oregonians, particularly Native Americans and others who consume larger amounts of fish and shellfish.
However, DEQ is proposing new rule language and revisions to existing language for various National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit implementation tools developed to assist dischargers in complying with revised standards.
Cities and businesses that discharge to state waters will be affected by this rulemaking if their discharge contains one or more of the regulated pollutants, the DEQ announcement states. Forest and agricultural land managers, transportation and other construction projects and other parties subject to programs that control point and nonpoint sources of pollution could also be affected if their activity results in the transport of regulated toxic pollutants into surface waters. Tribal people and other Oregonians who eat fish and shellfish will benefit from the health protection provided.
On June 1, 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency disapproved human health toxics criteria which Oregon submitted for approval in 2004 and which were based on a fish consumption rate of 17.5 grams per day (about two 8-ounce fish meals per month). EPA disapproved the human health toxics criteria because the fish consumption rate is not considered sufficiently protective of many Oregonians. DEQ is proposing to use a higher fish consumption rate of 175 grams per day (about 24 8-ounce meals per month) to calculate more protective human health toxics criteria. If DEQ does not establish revised criteria, EPA must conduct rulemaking to develop human health toxics criteria for Oregon.
In a letter to the Oregon DEQ last June, Michael Bussell, director of EPA’s Office of Water and Watersheds, said “Oregon’s work on the Fish Consumption Rate Review Program [has] resulted in a solid foundation to support the development of human health criteria protection of consumers of fish caught in Oregon’s waters. The foundation considers the relative high level of fish consumption in Oregon’s general population, the consumption patterns of Tribal and other subsistence fishers in the state, the cultural importance of fish to the tribes in Oregon and your government relationship with those Tribes.”
In fact, it was the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission that took the lead with DEQ to make changes to the Fish Consumption Rate.
DEQ’s proposed revisions to the water quality standards and Total Maximum Daily Load rules are intended to make DEQ’s rules consistent with state statutes affecting nonpoint sources of pollution and for DEQ to assign pollution load allocations to significant land and air sources in TMDLs, according to the Proposed Rulemaking Announcement.
DEQ explained that it has worked with several advisory committees throughout the process. In developing the revised Fish Consumption Rate, DEQ worked with the Human Health Focus Group, a group of public health specialists and toxicologists who advised DEQ in its review of available fish consumption studies, including those provided by tribal organizations. DEQ also assembled the Fiscal Impact and Implementation Advisory Committee, a group of affected stakeholders and two economists, to provide input on the fish consumption rate development and on a cost analysis conducted for DEQ by an EPA contractor.
During the development of the revised human health criteria and the implementation tools, DEQ worked with a Toxics Standards Rulemaking Workgroup and a Non-NPDES Workgroup, both comprised of affected stakeholders. Agendas and meeting summaries for these two workgroups are available on DEQ’s website at http://www.deq.state.or.us/wq/standards/humanhealth.htm
DEQ will prepare a response to all comments received during the public hearing and comment period and may modify the proposed rules. DEQ plans to recommend that the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission adopt the rules at the commission’s June 2011 meeting.
DEQ will notify persons of the time and place for final EQC action if they submit comments during the hearing or comment period or request to be placed on DEQ’s mailing list for this rulemaking.
Rulemaking materials available include :
-- Proposed Rule Changes
-- Statement of Need and Fiscal Impact
-- Land Use Evaluation Statement
-- Relationship to Federal Requirements
DEQ has posted those issue papers on its website http://deq.state.or.us/regulartions/rulemaking.htm
Also on the website is a schedule of several public hearings on the rulemaking in February throughout Oregon.