Idaho Water Quality: Fish Consumption Rate

Idaho Water Quality: Fish Consumption Rate

Current Status:

Case Title:
Notice of Intent to Sue

Staff attorney(s):
Bryan Hurlbutt


Idaho Conservation League

To Protect:

Water Quality

Date won/settled:
December 18, 2014


Case Information:

Advocates for the West secured a settlement for the Idaho Conservation League in this Clean Water Act action against EPA. The settlement ensures that inadequate water quality standards in Idaho will be revised to better protect people from exposure to dangerous toxins.In 2006, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (IDEQ) adopted a new “fish consumption rate”, which estimated the amount of fish people catch and eat from Idaho’s lakes and rivers. Using this estimated fish consumption rate, IDEQ developed water quality standards and set limits on the amount of toxic pollution that can be discharged to Idaho’s waterbodies. These limits aim to protect people from exposure to toxins from eating fish.However, IDEQ’s estimated fish consumption rate was wrong. Subsequent studies showed that many people consume more fish than IDEQ estimated. As a result, Idaho’s water quality standards were inadequate to protect people who consume higher levels of fish from harmful toxins.In response to a lawsuit we filed in 2012, EPA rejected Idaho’s water quality standards, triggering IDEQ’s duty to reevaluate the fish consumption rate and develop revised water quality standards. Under the Clean Water Act, IDEQ was required to revise these water quality standards within 90 days, but IDEQ failed to do so. At this point, EPA was required to step in and “promptly” revise the inadequate water quality standards, but EPA never did so. Instead, EPA decided to sit back and wait for IDEQ to undertake a lengthy revision process, which would include conducting fish consumption surveys around the State.

In April 2013 we sent EPA a Notice of Intent to Sue for failing to promptly revise these important water quality standards. We were able to craft a settlement agreement which gives IDEQ and other stakeholders time to complete fish consumption studies, but which sets a deadline to revise the standards by late 2016.