An ELI Professional Practice Seminar
When setting water quality standards (WQS) for surface water, every state in the nation is faced with the question of “how clean is clean enough?” The standard set by the state is important to citizens who rely upon a high level of water quality as well as municipal and industrial wastewater dischargers who must comply with permit limits that take into account WQS.
An issue that is receiving increasing attention is the health risk to persons who eat relatively large amounts of fish and shellfish that may be contaminated with toxic substances in the water. Three states in the Pacific Northwest are leading the way in considering whether to base their WQS on higher rates of fish consumption, resulting in more stringent WQS. Oregon recently revised its WQS, basing them on a fish consumption rate of 175 grams/day (about 6 ounces per day), which is the highest in the nation. Washington is in the process of developing revised WQS based on a fish consumption rate equal to that of Oregon, and Idaho is evaluating the use of a higher fish consumption rate after EPA disapproved WQS that were based on a rate of only 17.5 grams of fish consumption per day.
ELI’s expert panel engaged in a dynamic discussion that sought to answer questions such as: What are the key issues in setting WQS? How does a state calculate the amount of fish its citizens eat? What are the relative roles of EPA, state, the public, and industry in ensuring that state WQS are protective enough of all populations? What will happen to industry discharge permits as a result of new WQS?
Our panel of experts brought decades of experience to the discussion of the complexities involved in setting WQS.
Fredric P. Andes, Partner, Barnes & Thornburg, LLP (moderator)
Dr. Dianne Barton, Water Quality Coordinator, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission
Michael Campbell, Partner, Stoel Rives, LLP
Allyn Stern, Regional Counsel, US EPA Region 10
Jennifer Wigal, Water Quality Program Manager, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
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