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EPA clears the way for the State of Washington to implement its own Water Quality Standards

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SEATTLE  –  On April 16, 2020, EPA finalized the withdrawal of certain federal human health criteria (HHC) water quality standards in the state of Washington because they are no longer needed following the agency’s 2019 approval of certain standards that the state submitted to EPA in 2016. This important action supports the state of Washington’s role as the primary authority for adopting water quality standards in the state.

“With this action, EPA is supporting Washington state’s leadership in protecting their natural resources and environment by clearing the way for the plan that the state submitted to the agency,” said EPA’s Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water Anna Wildeman. “EPA received robust public input throughout this process and the agency appreciates the perspectives that were received from Washingtonians and the tribes within the region.”

“We all want clean water, but the Obama-era regulations on water quality did nothing to achieve that goal and were overly burdensome, immeasurable, and unrealistic. In fact, the City of Spokane invested $340 million in upgrading their water treatment processes and was celebrated by President Obama as a national model. But even these significant upgrades would not have been able to meet those unattainable restrictions,” said Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05), Ranking Member of the Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, House Committee on Energy and Commerce. “We need standards that keep our environment clean and provide clear, realistic incentives for our businesses and farmers to meet. Thank you to President Trump, Administrator Wheeler, and EPA for leading on these commonsense and responsible water quality standards that accomplish that goal.”

“This recognizes the stewardship that American farmers have invested. This change brings balance back to allow both the continued protection of our resources and allows the investments that have already been made to be recognized,” said Washington State Representative Mary Dye, Assistant Ranking Member of the House Environment and Energy Committee.

On May 10, 2019, EPA approved certain HHC water quality standards (except for arsenic) that the state submitted to the agency in 2016. In that action, EPA determined that the state’s submittal was protective of its designated uses, based on a sound scientific rationale, and consistent with the Clean Water Act. As an outgrowth of that approval, the agency is now finalizing the withdrawal of certain federally promulgated HHC. This action enables the state of Washington to implement its EPA-approved HHC, as applicable criteria for Clean Water Act purposes for waters within the state’s jurisdiction. EPA remains committed to supporting Washington as it implements its water quality standards.

EPA proposed to withdraw the federally promulgated HHC in the state of Washington on July 23, 2019. The agency held a 60-day public comment period and hosted two public hearings during the public comment period—one online on August 28, 2019 and one in-person on September 25, 2019. EPA appreciates the robust public input received from tribes and Washingtonians throughout this open and transparent process and the agency is committed to continuing to work with the state as these standards are implemented.

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