EPA Urges Alaska to Update Water Pollution Rules Due to High Fish Consumption

by Ella

Alaska’s love for fish is well-known, but it appears to have caught the attention of federal authorities, prompting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to call for updated water quality standards in the state. The EPA’s announcement on Thursday highlighted the need for Alaska to revise its regulations concerning water pollution to align with the significant consumption of fish by its residents.

Caleb Shaffer, the acting director of the EPA’s water division for the Pacific Northwest, emphasized the importance of ensuring that water quality standards in Alaska support healthy communities, considering the substantial intake of fish by its populace. The existing water quality rules, last revised in 2003, underestimate the amount of fish consumed by Alaskans, assuming an average of seven ounces per month based on outdated national data from 1992.


Contrary to this assumption, recent studies, including those conducted by the Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak, the Seldovia Village Tribe, and the state of Alaska itself, indicate much higher fish consumption rates, ranging from seven to 14 ounces per day. The discrepancy underscores the necessity of updating water quality standards to better reflect the actual dietary habits of Alaskans.


Maggie Rabb from the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council emphasized the need for stricter regulations to mitigate the impact of pollution on seafood, considering the elevated consumption levels. The EPA’s directive follows a petition filed by environmental organizations in 2015, urging the agency to compel Alaska to revise its standards.


Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation acknowledges the need for updated criteria and assures its commitment to meeting the EPA’s timeline. Spokesperson Kelly Rawalt affirmed that the state has been actively working on updating its standards based on current scientific knowledge and feedback from stakeholders. The proposed revisions will undergo public scrutiny before implementation, ensuring transparency and accountability in the regulatory process.


While the state is proactive in addressing the issue, the EPA stands ready to intervene if necessary, signaling the importance of safeguarding water quality in Alaska in light of its significant fish consumption patterns. As efforts continue to align water pollution regulations with actual dietary practices, the focus remains on promoting the health and well-being of Alaskan communities and preserving the state’s rich aquatic resources.



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