This case concerns one of the most fundamental requirements of the Clean Water Act: the protection of the health and cultures of people who consume fish and shellfish and the livelihoods of fishermen and women. Forty-two years ago, the Clean Water Act made the promise to rid our nation‟s waters of toxic pollutants and to restore and protect the “fishable and swimmable” character of those waters. The Clean Water Act also imposed the necessary requirements to fulfill those promises on states and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”). Unfortunately,
long past the timelines set forth in the Clean Water Act, Washington and the nation continue to struggle to meet those most basic goals, with outdated standards that are inadequate to protect consumers from toxins like mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (“PCBs”), and arsenic.
Washington‟s human health water quality standards for toxic pollutants are based in part upon a fish consumption rate—the amount of fish people consume, and that rate is a crucial component of meeting the Clean Water Act‟s purpose and requirements to protect the health and cultures of all people to safely eat fish. The Environmental Protection Agency‟s (“EPA”) failure to act on its mandatory duty to finalize its proposed human health criteria for the state of Washington puts both health and culture at risk as people are exposed to elevated levels of cancer-causing toxins like mercury and PCBs, even as EPA consistently recognizes and articulates the danger.
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