State Department of Ecology proposes new and updated limits for toxics in water

Photo courtesy Washington State Department of Ecology

Washington’s waters could soon see more protective limits for dozens of toxic chemicals, meaning cleaner water and a healthier environment for all creatures that call the state’s rivers, streams and Puget Sound home, the Washington State Department of Ecology said in a news release.

The Department of Ecology is proposing a major update to the state’s aquatic life toxics criteria. As part of the state’s rules for how clean state waters need to be, the aquatic life toxics criteria are designed to protect aquatic life, such as fish and invertebrates, from the effects of toxic chemicals in the water. The criteria include limits for marine and fresh water, and limits to protect aquatic life from both immediate (acute) effects, such as death, and long-term (chronic) effects, such as changes in growth and reproduction.

Currently, Washington has aquatic life toxics criteria for 28 toxic chemicals. Ecology is proposing to update the criteria for 16 these chemicals and add 14 more chemicals to the list for a total of 42. Well-known chemicals already on the list such as arsenic, copper, nickel, silver and zinc are receiving updates to better protect aquatic life from these chemicals. Proposed new additions to Washington’s list include PFOA and PFOS (part of the PFAS chemical group), aluminum and the emerging chemical of concern 6PPD-quinone, the chemical that comes from tires and is toxic to salmon.

Washington’s last major update to these criteria was 30 years ago. Ecology is proposing these updates now based on updated science and new research, new methods and modeling tools, recommendations from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and tribal governments, and public input encouraging Ecology to prioritize this work.

Once finalized by Ecology and approved by the EPA, the updated criteria will become part of water quality permits and used to identify polluted waters that need cleanup plans.

Provide input

Ecology is accepting public comments on this rule through April 17. All rulemaking documents are available on the aquatic life toxics criteria rule webpage.

Submit comments online, by mail, or at a public hearing:

Comment online

Mail to:
Marla Koberstein
Department of Ecology
Water Quality Program
P.O. Box 47696
Olympia, WA 98504-7696

Public hearing

Ecology will hold virtual public hearings at:

1:30 p.m. April 4, 2024  Register here

5:30 p.m. April 10, 2024  Register here

Ecology will provide an overview of the proposed rule and hold a question-and-answer period, followed by public comment.

Learn more by reading a Focus sheet on aquatic life toxics criteria rulemaking.


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