The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality will host a public hearing Thursday on a proposal to give Oregon the nation's toughest water quality standards.
The proposal, tied to human consumption of fish, pits Oregon Indian tribes against industry groups.
The change aims to improve water quality by changing the state's assumption about how much fish people eat. Current rules call for water clean enough to let each Oregonian safely eat 6.5 grams of fish per day. The new rule would raise that amount to 175 grams a day, roughly equivalent of 24 8-ounce servings a month.
The proposal is being promoted by the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. N. Kathryn Brigham, a commission member and secretary of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, told The World on Tuesday that 6.5 grams of fish is a tiny amount -- roughly the size of a cracker.
She said members of her tribe typically consume 389 grams of fish per day -- mostly salmon. Eating so much fish exposes tribe members to far more toxins than the state assumes with its 6.5-gram standard. The 175-gram proposal resulted from negotiations among the department, tribes and industries, she said.
'It's not only healthy for fish," she said, 'it's healthy for everyone."
Brigham is in Coos Bay attending the annual meeting of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians at The Mill Casino-Hotel.
DEQ says the new rule would affect cities' and industries' discharge of regulated pollutants to rivers, streams and lakes. Forestry, farming, construction and other activities could also be affected if they release toxic pollutants.
Associated Oregon Industries has argued that the new rules would prevent businesses from locating in Oregon or expanding existing facilities.
Besides Thursday's public hearing, DEQ will host sessions in Ontario on Feb. 7; Pendleton, Feb. 8; and Portland, Feb. 10.
For details, visit www.deq.state.or.us.
The department will accept written comments up to Feb. 23. They can be mailed to Andrea Matzke, Oregon DEQ, 811 SW Sixth Ave., Portland, OR 97024; or faxed to 503-229-6037; or e-mailed to ToxicsRulemaking@deq.state.or.us.
A decision is expected in June.