How Much Fish You Eat Determines Water Quality In Idaho

Jan 31, 2013

Credit David Ascher / Flickr

How much fish do you eat every week?  That’s a question Idaho’s Department of Environmental Quality wants to answer.  The agency has asked state lawmakers for funding to study that question. 

Back in 2006, Idaho DEQ told the Environmental Protection Agency that Idahoans eat four ounces of fish per week.  That's an important number when it comes to setting water quality standards.  DEQ Director Curt Fransen puts it this way. “The higher the fish consumption rate, the lower the acceptable toxics in water.” 

The EPA regulates 88 toxic substances, including benzene, cyanide, and PCBs.  The level of those that are allowed in our surface water is based in part on how much fish we eat.   

So the more fish you eat, the cleaner your water has to be.  Last year, the EPA said Idaho’s ‘four ounces a week’ standard is too low.  Oregon’s standard, for example, is six ounces of fish every day.  So Fransen wants to find out how much fish Idahoans eat.  “The challenge before us is to develop standards that consume fish from Idaho waters, without unnecessarily burdening industrial and municipal sources that treat and discharge wastewater into such waters.” 

DEQ's director asked state lawmakers Wednesday for $300,000 to do a fish consumption survey.  That information would then go to the EPA to help set Idaho’s water quality standard.

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