Impossible new water standards just an excuse for another tax

Tax the air, tax the water: Mitigation rights for impossible new water standards (based on specious science) are nothing more than a tax scheme – the water version of a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system.

by Sen. Doug Whitsett (R-Klamath Falls)

Thursday in Pendleton, TAPS were played for the future of Oregon’s natural resources based economy, and the private sector jobs they sustain.

The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) adopted, by Administrative Rule, new Oregon water quality standards for human toxics that are ten times more stringent than anywhere else in the United States, or for that matter, anywhere else on the planet.

Compliance with the water quality standards adopted by the EQC will be virtually impossible. In many situations the new standards exceed the normal background levels. Water diverted from a stream, or pumped from a well, that naturally exceeds the concentration of any alleged pollutant cannot be returned to any water body without being treated to meet the new draconian standards. Moreover, it is our understanding that no known water treatment technology exists to treat water to achieve some of the standards.

The Rules were adopted by fiat by EQC. The Rules have the full force of Oregon laws. There was no vote of the people. There was no vote by elected Legislators that represent the people. The Commission enacted the Rules through Oregon’s administrative rule procedure.

The EQC procedure for adopting Administrative Rules is a sham. Public input is solicited and summarized by EQC. Unfortunately, that public input is then selectively ignored. Reams of form letters, solicited by special interest groups receive the same credibility as the most thoughtful evaluations by respected PhD scientists. No meaningful attempt is made to address the issues raised by dissenting scientists. Those careful scientific criticisms by learned professionals are routinely dismissed out of hand simply because Department of Environmental Quality staff disagrees. In my opinion, in most cases the outcome of the rules making process is determined before public input is solicited.

The water quality standards are based on modeled data for the accumulation of toxic pollutants in fish. Little supportive data is cited to substantiate that alleged bioaccumulation. The standards are further based on modeled data for their accumulation in people who eat fish. No supportive data is cited to substantiate that alleged bioaccumulation in humans. Never-the-less, the new standard is based on the human consumption of 175 grams or about 6 ounces of fish per day. This calculates to 142 pounds of fish per person a year. The adopted rules hold the entire state to that standard.

Basing our solutions on inappropriate assumptions often leads to absurd outcomes. In this case we must assume that the heavy metals are accumulating in fish, and assume that these folks consume 6 ounces of fish every day of the year, and assume that all the metals consumed by eating the fish are retained in the human body in order to reach the threshold of what EQC has determined may be a dangerous level of heavy metals in humans.

Moreover, we must assume that reducing the level of these toxic pollutants in our fresh water supply will reduce their bioaccumulation in salmon, steelhead and other anadromous species that live most of their life in the ocean. Further, in order to justify these standards we must assume that this alleged bioaccumulation problem is ten times more likely to occur in Oregon than in any of the other 49 states. Finally, we must assume that the concentrations found in water and fish today are higher than the levels found a hundred years ago and further that the difference is being caused by man.

The science that EQC cites to support these assumptions is specious at best. One of the five alleged peer reviewed studies appears to be nothing more than a summary of the summaries of a literature search. Another study performed in a Washington watershed specifically states that the conclusions reached cannot be considered to be valid or useful in any other watershed. Another excluded everyone who did not eat fish from the data base that calculated the average fish consumption for the entire population. The other two studies have equally strong disclaimers and fatal flaws.

Our businesses and our natural resources based industries have no chance of complying with the EQC adopted water quality standards. Their only option will be to purchase mitigation rights to continue the practices that they have followed for decades. They will soon have to pay to continue the practices that have never, and never will, cause anyone harm. This will be yet another tax on the privilege of doing business in Oregon; an uncompetitive tax that similar businesses in other states will not be required to pay.

Why would any business choose to move to Oregon with their capital and their jobs, knowing that they must pay to not comply with these impossible water quality standards? As a matter of fact, why would any Oregon business that is capable of leaving remain in this state with the new competitive disadvantage?

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Posted by at 07:11 | Posted in Natural Resources, Oregon Government, State Taxes | 39 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Joe

    Check out UN AGENDA 21. Unsuspecting, ignorant,citizens are supporting this environmental agenda pushed quietly by the environmental left. Wake up people before it is to late.

  • Ronglynn

    This is yet another example of State Agencies running roughshod over the People of Oregon. They need to be reined in by having their Administrative Rules reviewed by the Legislature and order the unreasonable ones to be reworked giving scientific evidence higher regard. Otherwise, they end up catering to certain Political groups who have an agenda.

    • We also should have some say.  I think it’s called voting.  Which in this state seems to only happen on a very rare occasion.  We are the ones at the mercy of these so called experts (which isn’t occurring any place else in the country except here).  It shouldn’t even be let up to the Legislature.  We have seen some of the decisions they have made and they haven’t been user friendly.  Many of us are very savvy and would like the opportunity to voice our opinion before these zealots totally ruin the state.

      • Ronglynn

        Poor comparison. Last time I looked, I did not see any Administrative Rules on my ballot.

    • Paul S.

      Nice comments, Ron.  This action on the part of a non-elected bureaucratic group is just the thing East Germany and other socialistic states specialized in.  If not fought tooth and nail, we’ll all be serfs within a decade.
      Let me know of any plans you may have to combat this.  I’ll join you with letters, phone calls and whatever…
      Paul S.

  • valley dude

    And what qualifications does Mr Whitsett have to judge the science?

    “Why would any business choose to move to Oregon with their capital and
    their jobs, knowing that they must pay to not comply with these
    impossible water quality standards?”

    I suspect you mean to comply with rather than to not comply with. One reason might be that we will have the cleanest water in the nation. Or do you think businesses that use water prefer dirty water they they have to pay to clean before they use it?

    • Rob DeHarpport

      Any one with a small bit of common sense can judge this “science” just as Senator Whitsett has done. He’s is 100% correct- this is another administrative rule that is nothing more than a tool to regulate and ransom. We now have far too many agencies full of ideologues hell bent on using there authority- with or without the sound science to support it. Self perpetuating money pits…

      • valley dude

        Its one thing for Mr Whitsett or you or anyone else to question whether it is worth the cost to achieve the water quality under the proposed rules. It is quite another to call the science it is based on to be junk.

        When people don’t like the implications of what science uncovers, people have shown a strong tendency to question science. Back when Copernicus figured out through science that the earth was
        round and revolved around the sun, everyone with common sense could see
        he was wrong, the earth was flat, and it was the sun that was moving,
        not the earth.

        • Ronglynn

          General Education among the population is light years away from the time of Copernicus. So, it is not the same thing today.

          • valley dude

            Really? Scientific literacy is actually pretty darn low. Just under half of Americans cannot describe the theory of evolution and do not believe it is scientific fact. Fewer than 1/3 even know what DNA is. About 10% know what radiation is. And believe it or not, 1 in 5 believes the sun revolves around the earth. Science education in high school is pretty thin, and it isn’t much better in college for non science majors.

            So getting back to the topic at hand, what qualifies Mr Whitsett or you to proclaim what is “junk science” and what isn’t?

            As an optional answer, you can just call me names.


          • Zanzara

            I have not read the report so I cannot call it junk science. 

            I do however, suspect it of being junk legislation and junk rules based on this statement:

            “In many situations the new standards exceed the normal background
            levels. Water diverted from a stream, or pumped from a well, that
            naturally exceeds the concentration of any alleged pollutant cannot be
            returned to any water body without being treated to meet the new
            draconian standards.”

            If that is true, then the rules surpass even the draconian level of rule making. 

            The bottles of water sold in stores are contaminating the water they contain with their own by-products of manufacturing.  The canned and bottled drinks contain contaminants from the area wherein they were produced.  Some of it takes up residence in the bodies through which it passes, and some of it ends up in the waste water treatment plants and passes on out into the waterways. 

            Of critical note, the pharmaceuticals that pass through the human bodies unaltered, end up being dumped into the environment and ingested by the fish and again by other humans as downstream water intakes sucks it back into the drinking water supply.  The cost of removing these “legal” drugs from the system is a price tag that would choke the nation. 

            Does this legislation apply to the waste water from cities?   

          • valley dude

            There is an exception allowed where the background levels exceed normal background levels. There are additional exceptions in the proposed rules. 

            The “science” in this proposal seems sound to me. Its based on the recognition that Oregonians eat a lot more fish caught from our streams than most other states, and that these fish metabolize the toxins. It only targets toxins that have known human health impacts. So this is a human health issue.

            Its not about drinking water. its about ingesting accumulated toxins in the fish we eat, salmon and trout mostly. Again, one can make the argument that the health benefits are not worth the cost to industry, farmers, and loggers. But that doesn’t make the proposal junk science.

          • valley dude

            I meant to say, where the normal background levels exceed the standard. 

          • Rob DeHarpport

            How many fish would you estimate are eaten from the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the Willamette? (It’s a fly fishing only river). Perhaps a drive an Aufderhide Road #1912 would enlighten you do this DEQ data that I question. The bottom line is it’s just more & more unnecessary regulation. 

          • valley person

            I’m not sure. There are 3 dams on the Middle fork that prevent salmon access, so there may not be enough fish to eat. But the water from the Middle Fork, unless I am mistaken, flows downstream to the mainstem Willamette. And as it happens I was kayaking on the river near Oregon City a couple weeks ago and had to navigate through a hundred or so small boats crammed with bait and line anglers.  So locally, we eat a lot of fish that absorb toxins from Westfir water.

          • Rob DeHarpport

             Here is an example of the DEQ’s “science.” As a small town City Councilor (Westfir, Pop. 300) I’ve experienced their bogus science a couple of years ago.
              Westfir straddles the North Fork of the Middle Fork Willamette River, Westfir is located on the LAST mile of this river (which is designated a “Wild & Scenic River). The NF originates at the NW corner of pristine Waldo Lake, it tumbles through old growth forest and mixed forest approximately 35 miles to Westfir and then the Middle Fork Willamette.
               The DEQ showed up at a council meeting with maps, temperature data etc. showing us that the North Fork exceeding their thresh hold for Salmon & Trout to survive and asked us as councilors for suggestions as to how we could help cool the river. THEIR MAP EVEN SHOWED WALDO LAKE AS HAVING A TEMPERATURE THAT IS TOO HIGH AS WELL! Waldo Lake is at 5600′ elevation and is covered with ice many winters (including the last two).
              Call me a “Flat Earther and “Denier” but I have very serious doubts about the DEQ’s data and temperature parameters, of course this is based on what I call “common sense.” Therefore I tend to side with Senator Whisett on this  issue about Water quality/DEQ.
              The Oregon DEQ (and others) are nothing more than a self-perpetuating rule making agency, Hell bent on justifying their very existence by TAXING water while calling it water safety regulation.
              Any suggestions for “cooling” the tree lined North Fork are appreciated….

        • Rob DeHarpport

          Exactly; As they quote “In many situations the new standards exceed normal background levels.” Hence my problem with the DEQ assessment, data & mapping of the North Fork of The Middle Fork Willamette water temperature………………….Unrealistic as well as exceeding normal background levels- the DEQ standards are asinine at best.

          • valley person

            My understanding is that because much of the middle fork is behind dams, it does indeed have a water temperature problem, and this is well documented. The streams well above the reservoirs have no such problem, which is why bull trout, which requires the coldest of water temperatures, as been successfully reintroduced up there. 

            I’m not clear on what your complaint actually is. The Middle Fork is just fine?

          • Rob DeHarpport

            You do not understand what I’m saying. I’ll try again- the Oregon DEQ says that water temps from Westfir up to AND including Waldo Lake are too high. No dams to influence temps at all. My complaint is the DEQ and their data.

    • Joe

      Keep drinkin the kool-aid dude. Sounds like you have your own stand and business is good. Morons!

  • Ron Marquez

    It would be useful to have a couple of unbiased scientific minds chime in.  If you do so, please state your credentials and at least an indication of neutrality on the subject.


    • MyOwnMan

      I don’t need any credentials to be afraid.

      • valley person

        No, that is certainly true. All you need is ignorance.

  • Radioactive

    Without these standards someone will just pee in the reservoir. Then what would we do?
    I am proud of Oregon for leading the way in getting bad stuff out of our water. Do you even know what is in there?
    I have heard of a lot of guys hiking in to the reservoirs up near Mt. Hood and taking dumps just to show PDX a thing or two.
    I don’t and won’t dring this stuff.
    It is BAD.
    Plus, do the new standards say anything about radiation? Cause we have it. I know. I used to work at Hanford.

    • Once we let commission’s set our standards at the ridiculous level this out of control group has, there is no stopping this.  One thing I have learned about government and you should be aware of too, scare tactics.  None of us has perished from past practices and all I see is that this is a control issue and we are being taxed or being charged fees on top of it.  Oregon is so busy trying to “set the pace” they are forgetting that the folks that are here have to LIVE here.  I don’t know where you have come from, but please quit drinking the cool aid.  If you like taxes and fees and more control, you have definitely come to the right place.  Sad day.

    • Gchalv

      You, respectfully, are an idiot.

    • Ronglynn

      Standards are one thing and overkill is another.

    • Ronglynn

      Standards are one thing and overkill is another.

  • Zanzara

    Water Treatment Grade 1 Certification makes me ask if the legislation accommodates the contaminants in the incoming water or does it require the removal of contaminants introduced by usage before it is discharged? 

    There is no such thing as pure or clean water.  Water is hungry and is omnivorous.  It won’t even fall out of the sky unless it can find something to cling to. 

    Heavy metal contamination occurs from the atmosphere and the Gobi dust storms, volcanoes, nuclear reactors, forest fires, wind storms, name it…that the rain grabs onto and carries it into the waterways.  On the way down, it even picks up the carbon dioxide exhaust from the trees, shrubs and grass and rot on the forest floor and adds that to its mix to create a weak form of carbolic acid.  This naturally occurring carbolic acid helps the rain dissolve and suck in even more contaminants from the mountain rocks.  Old volcanic flumes pull this water underground to dissolve more minerals and chemical stews and lets it flow out other volcanic flumes complete with subterranean gases entrained as well within the flow–acidic by nature, it continues to melt the world it touches into its character. 

    Well water and springs carries the chemical and metal laced volcanic deposits below to the surface to be consumed by us and the little fishies.

    It’s an awesome process that feeds the world the trace minerals it needs.

    Did you know your heart needs a wee bit of arsenic to beat correctly?

    Did you know that garlic and cilantro chelates heavy metals out of your body?

    The government is counting on your ignorance to control you.

    • valley dude

      According to the EQC web site the rules do not require anyone to clean the water beyond the background pollution level. Exceptions were made for naturally occurring  toxic materials. Lots of things are good for us in small doses, but can do damage in larger doses.

  • This sort of Regulatory assault is war by other means.

  • Gchalv

    May Oregon, if it does not change its ways, rot….  

  • Steve

    Just another case of Eco-Freaks gaining power and dipping their hands into the publics wallet..  They have for years used the ‘Sky is Falling ‘ routine to rush Crap through legislative bodies flashing bogus stats pushing for quick fixes..  ‘Let no crisis (real or made up) go without exploiting it’, the motto of the left is at play here.. They know they have to push fast before REAL Scientist prove them wrong, which takes time.. Look to California and its Multitude of ridiculous environmental laws that now have been shown to be useless and cost taxpayers BILLIONS of Dollars and still are costing them because they are still on the books, do they apologize when shown their errors, Hell No, they are already at work on other projects to control and tax us…  Now that watch groups keep an eye on their shenanigans in legislatures, they have circumvented the peoples representatives by using agency mandates, hmmm seems universal, Obama does the same thing with Executive Decrees or Federal Agency mandates… Kinda looks like a pattern here does it not?

  • Afraid

    I refuse to drink any water from Portland public water supply until these new standards are implemented fully.

    • Rob DeHarpport

      Good for you! God help the rest of us. LOL!

    • valley person

      Facetiousness aside, these rules are not about drinking water. They are about eating fish that has metabolized toxins in the water.  So drink up.

  • Lhughes

    “Why would any business choose to move to Oregon with their capital and
    their jobs?”

    1. Because they don’t buy hyperbolic right-wing attempts (like this) to scare them into thinking common sense environmental protection is bad for business. 

    2. Because here in Oregon we understand a healthy environment is an irreplaceable capital asset critical to healthy vibrant economy that should not let be protected and enhanced, not left to be despoiled the careless or greedy.

    3. Oregonians don’t move here to get rich quick, but to make respectable living that enriches rather than degrades the environmental quality of this beautiful state.


  • Fishboy

    The fish have a right to clean water, too. And, I am saying, that to eat a fish is to drink this water. It all goes in you. All of it. I love fish, so I imagine I have enough mercury in me to make a fine thermometer someday.

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