Dirty policies, filthy fish


Thank you for your recent article on polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs (“A toxic past and present on the Spokane River,” HCN, 2/4/19). Here at the Spokane Riverkeeper, we are on the front lines of this issue. As your article demonstrates, stakeholders have been active in promulgating a narrative of collaborative cleanup efforts. But while these laudable efforts are underway, those same stakeholders are, behind the scenes, also involved in an unrelenting effort to loosen up regulations and clean-water protections throughout the state of Washington. The narrative missing from your article is a story of eroding accountability on the part of agencies charged with protecting our water, river dischargers pushing boundaries and a Trump administration that has provided fertile ground for challenging basic safeguards. In 2016, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency promulgated a PCB standard that restricts PCBs to 7 parts/quadrillion in our state’s waters. It is a challenging water-quality standard for dischargers to meet, but it is essential that it stay in place, as PCBs continue to accumulate in fish, magnify up the food chain, and ultimately put people at risk. Additionally, the EPA and the Washington State Department of Ecology have recently begun actively discussing the potential to put in place PCB “variances” for the Spokane River Basin to create a looser water-quality standard. Every citizen of the American West should understand the way in which sinister Trump administration policies, looser discharge permit terms, and filthy fish are hiding behind reform. 

Jerry White Jr. 
Spokane Riverkeeper 
Spokane, Washington

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