An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

EPA considering rule to limit PCB chemicals in Washington

Doug Nadvornick/SPR
The Spokane River would likely be impacted by PCB discharge restrictions.

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a rule that would drastically limit the amount of harmful chemicals local governments and industry can discharge into the state’s waterways.

Tribes, environmental groups and recreationists have long pushed for cleaner water standards that would limit the discharge of chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyl, or PCBs into the state’s rivers.

Jerry White, the Spokane Riverkeeper, said water advocates almost succeeded in 2016 to implement more restrictive standards, but those rules were rolled back in 2020 after pushback from industries.

He says this proposal, which would limit governments and private businesses to 7 picograms of PCBs per a day from 170, could reduce pollution long-term.

“So to go to 170 down to 7 is a major leap forward for the health of our river, but there's no question that there's going to be an impact on those wastewater treatment plants that discharge to the river," he said.

PCB’s are a man-made chemical and a carcinogen. They can also cause development issues in pregnancy. A common way people ingest the chemical is through eating fish. The Washington State Department of Health has asked the public to not eat, or limit their consumption of some fish, because of PCB contamination.

There will be two online hearings held on the proposed Clean Water Act rule change in May and people can sign up to testify on the EPA’s website.