Program Template photo identifier

Rule Making

Water Quality Standards for Protecting Human Health
(Fish consumption rates)
Chapter 173-201A WAC


We released a new proposed rule that updates surface water quality standards to include human health criteria and updated tools to implement the standards.

Protects health

Our new proposed rule maintains a more protective cancer risk rate and is in keeping with the governor's directive from October 2015. It aims to protect the health of Washington’s people, fish and the economy. It provides a foundation for our ongoing progress to reduce and control toxics in the environment as we continue to work with researchers and manufacturers to find safer chemical alternatives, eliminating these toxics at the source.


Our new proposed rule helps the state maintain control over how to meet federal requirements to ensure we are protecting human health while providing businesses and local government sensible tools to comply with updated standards.

Get involved

We held public hearings in April and our public comment period closed April 22, 2016. We expect to adopt a final rule in August 2016.

EPA rule

The Environmental Protection Agency also is preparing a rule for Washington in case our rule is not finalized. EPA released its draft rule in September 2015.

Compare Ecology's and EPA's proposed rules


Both the state and EPA proposed rules agree that water quality standards should be based on a daily average fish consumption rate of 175 grams per day and a one-in-one-million cancer risk rate.


The state's new proposed rule offers implementation tools to wastewater dischargers to provide them time to come into compliance while working on reducing toxics in their waste streams. EPA's rule proposal does not contain these options.

EPA's proposed rule contains stringent limits for PCBs and arsenic, and adds a new limit for methyl mercury that will be difficult for Washington dischargers to meet. Our new proposed rule would maintain the current standards, as proposed in our initial rule, for PCBs. Criteria for mercury would remain under federal regulation. Arsenic would align with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act standard.

Historical background

Ecology's rulemaking process


Last updated May 2016



Becca Conklin



Subscribe to the
E-mail ListServ to receive updates on this rulemaking and other water quality information


EPA draft rule for Washington

Ecology's comments on EPA's draft rule for Washington

Archival Rule Documents

State Law

Approved Surface Water Quality Standards