Editorial about the EPAs comments on Idaho’s draft rule on “Human Health Water Quality

Fish Consumption: After three years of negotiated rulemaking, Idaho DEQ has released a draft rule for “Human Health Water Quality Criteria.”

Interested parties from Industry, Environmental Groups, Municipalities, Native American Tribes, Business Associations, Agriculture and the EPA have all participated in what was an excellent process. All parties were heard.
This is the rule that dictates the limits for all discharge permits for industry and for the cities. The IDEQ’s draft rule includes the following:
• A cancer risk factor of one in one million (10-6) at the 95th percentile.
• A Fish Consumption rate of 16.1 grams per day.
• Daily untreated water consumption of 2.4 liters per day.
• An assumed body weight for an average American of 89kg.
• A Relative Source Contribution of 94 EPA recognized chemicals.
• The use of a “Probabilistic Risk Assessment” method for determining the human health risk.

The rule also makes some fish consumption policy decisions that include:
• Anadromous fish (with the exception of Steelhead) are not included in the fish consumption number.
• Market fish are not included in the formula (with the exception of farm raised rainbow trout from Idaho).
• Fish consumption is based on the consumption of fish from Idaho waters.

Comments from interested parties had to be submitted by August 21st. The IDEQ will consider the submitted comments and make changes to the draft rule. The final rule will be published in the Idaho Bulletin, go out for public comment, be reviewed by the Board of Environmental Quality and then be presented to the Idaho Legislature in January for final approval.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Having just read the comments submitted by the EPA on Idaho’s draft rule on “Human Health Water Quality” (see above), I have to wonder why so many concerned Idahoans bothered to participate in the three year rulemaking. It appears that the EPA is planning on flexing their muscle and insist that Idaho use the same type of criteria standards that they foisted upon the state of Oregon.
The Clean Water Act allows for the individual states to promulgate rules to protect the water within the boundaries of their respective states. That didn’t happen in Oregon, it is not happening in Washington and it appears that it is not going to happen in Idaho.
In Oregon the EPA rejected the rules that the state had promulgated and imposed their own rules. The end result being a criteria standard that cannot be met with today’s technology and a huge backlog of permit applications.
A similar situation has developed in Washington where Governor Inslee proposed a new rule that would have been less stringent than Oregon’s, but would have added over 30 new constituents to the toxic list. Once again the EPA stepped in to develop their own rules for Washington.
EPA’s comments to the Idaho draft rule appear to be following the pattern set by Region 10 in our neighboring states.
The EPA voiced objection to Idaho not considering all “market fish” in the development of the Fish Consumption numbers. EPA would like the IDEQ to include Atlantic salmon, shellfish and any other fish that could possibly be purchased at your local grocery. It doesn’t matter to the EPA that the fish never lived in the Idaho waters that the rule is supposedly protecting.
To that same theme, the EPA objects to IDEQ not including all anadromous fish in the calculation, even though those fish live less than two percent of their lives in Idaho’s streams and lakes.
The total lack of common sense on the part of EPA reeks of an elitism on their part that insults the hard working employees of IDEQ and the regulated community.
Go to the IDEQ website and read the EPA comments. If you find them to be as unrealistic as I do, then contact your Congressman. It may end up that the only way for Idaho’s water bodies to be regulated by Idaho is to involve our DC delegation.

by: Brent Olmstead

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