It just makes sense: The cleaner our streams and lakes, the fewer toxins such as mercury in our fish, and the more fish you can safely eat. On the flip side, more pollution in our water leads to more toxins in our fish and the less fish that you can safely eat.
ICL’s goal is that all Idahoans can safely eat fish from our lakes and streams. So several years ago, we challenged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed approval of low fish consumption numbers and corresponding lax water quality standards. During our settlement with the EPA, we began an Idaho Department of Environmental Quality rulemaking process to set fish consumption rates.
That rulemaking is done, and the Idaho Legislature will likely review the proposed rule in 2016. ICL strongly believes that the proposed rule does not protect human health to the degree that it should. But the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, believing that the proposed rule is too restrictive, has stated that loosening water quality standards is its biggest legislative priority.
Idaho’s water is monitored for 104 toxins like copper, arsenic, mercury and asbestos. These toxins accumulate in fish-and people eat fish. The potential harm to human health posed by eating fish full of toxins drives this issue.
The national fish consumption average is 17.5 grams of fish a day. IDEQ’s proposed rule sets the amount of fish that Idahoans can safely consume at 16.1 grams a day; that is, less than most American’s eat each day.
But IACI wants to reduce our water quality standards, which would greatly limit the amount of fish that Idahoans can safely eat. Everyone would be impacted, but Idaho communities that rely on larger amounts of fish for their diet would be the most affected.
ICL doesn’t support the proposed rule either. But our concern stems from the proposal not being restrictive enough. The proposed standards do not effective consider tribal people-including the Nez Perce and Shoshone-Bannock-who consume larger amounts of fish. While the rule may protect 95% of Idaho’s nontribal population, it is far less protective of tribal members, at 50%.
It is immoral and wrong for the state of Idaho to develop standards that fail to provide the same level of protection for all Idahoans. We are tracking this process closely-clean water for public health, for our children, and for all Idahoans depends on it.