Intertwined: Fish Consumption and Water Quality Standards

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has scheduled a series of public workshops in February regarding raising the state’s water quality standards. DEQ proposes to make Oregon’s water quality standards among the toughest in the country. The reason? DEQ argues that the more fish you eat, the more you are exposed to the cumulative effects of toxins in water, and therefore the higher the standard should be for those toxins.

DEQ proposes an unjustifiably high “safe” assumption of 175 grams of fish consumed per person per day, equivalent to eating 23 fish meals a month. This is ten times EPA’s national fish consumption standard of just 17.5 g/day. In 2008, a DEQ committee reviewed the economic impacts on relevant industries if this higher fish consumption standard were adopted. The committee concluded that technology isn’t currently available, or else the costs are so prohibitively high, that meeting the new standard would not be feasible. Yet, DEQ continues to insist on an over-inflated fish consumption rate to justify a significant increase in water quality standards.

When the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, pollutants were measured in parts per thousand. We now measure pollutants in parts per trillion. Government agencies must recognize there are diminishing health benefits and economic returns to the continued tightening of environmental regulations. DEQ’s proposed water quality standards are an example of unrealistic premises being used to pursue diminishing returns at exorbitant costs.


Karla Kay Edwards is Rural Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute. She has held positions of leadership in numerous organizations focusing on agricultural and rural industries and issues, including the Fresno (California) Farm Bureau, Washington Cattlemen’s Association and the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Natural Resources | Tagged , , , , , | 24 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Bob Clark

    Sounds like maybe a solution might be fish credits. Manufacturers would buy people’s fish consumption down to a safe level. Or, manufactureres could supplement fish supply with purer raised hatchery fish. Of course, there is the tribal traditions.

    Either way sure sounds like a bad time to be raising the cost of doing business in Oregon. Maybe if DEQ did a better job of managing existing law. It hasn’t been such a great enforcement agency to date.

  • Steve Plunk

    What? Expect the government to understand the law of diminishing returns? When you’re spending other people’s money that law doesn’t apply as far as they are concerned.

  • Disillusioned Smith7

    I have some questions.
    So… the DEQ was using an FCR of 6.5 grams/day. The EPA didn’t like that, they were using a national average of 17.5 g/d. So the DEQ decides to use 175g/day.
    Who came up with that number? The DEQ? The SAIC?

  • Disillusioned Smith7

    I have some questions.
    So… the DEQ was using an FCR of 6.5 grams/day. The EPA didn’t like that, they were using a national average of 17.5 g/d. So the DEQ decides to use 175g/day.
    Who came up with that number? The DEQ? The SAIC?

  • Swiftrunningwater

    I know this much. That water is dirty. It is the fault of the white man, as the water was clean when the natives roamed these once great lands.
    If we can do anything, no matter the cost, to clean up the water again, then we must and we shall.

    • Disillusioned Smith7

      I have great respect for native americans. But what you said does not make sense… What was the population before the white man? What is the population now? You willing to live off the land… fetch water… gather firewood? Be realistic.
      Hopefully you’re not… OH MY GOD… one of those Oregonians that accepts without question whatever the state tells you… please tell me I’m wrong.

      • Swiftrunningwater

        I would gladly return to the ways of my native ancestors. Sure, there were not that many of us, but we worshipped nature and cared for her like one of our own. We smoked a little, but only for worshipping nature. We took only what we needed – buffalo, deer, salmon, etc. But only what was necessary – never extra like the Japanese with their wanton slaughter of the great whales – those magnificent creatures of the deep.
        Oregon is helping us return to those days by requiring all sorts of alternative energy, but supplementing the purchase of vehicles that can run without the devils own liquid, by outlawing (I hope) plastic bags, and by taxing everyone so much they won’t be able to engage in excess like some yuppies do.
        Sure, we fought amongst ourselves, made a few sacrifices, and scalped plenty of white men, but all in all we were much kinder and gentler to our mother of all mothers, mother earth.
        The peoples of today have no regard nor do they even know our mother. Not like my ancestors did.
        Now all the tribe does is sell cigs for cheap and take money from the white mens who gamble at our colorful tables. This is justice. And a tax on the poor and stupid.
        Finally, we have made peace with the white man and it is at his expense.
        I say running bear would be proud. I know I am.

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