Quinault Nation joins state’s EPA suit against rollback of clean water standards

  • Sat Oct 12th, 2019 3:30pm
  • News

The Quinault Indian Nation has joined in a state lawsuit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to reverse 2016 clean water standards.

The tribe entered the suit Oct. 1 “defending clean water standards intended to protect human health and limit the amount of toxic pollution found in fish that are a dietary staple of Quinault Nation tribal members,” according to a tribe statement.

The Nation’s members consume fish at a higher rate than the fish consumption standard employed by EPA in its May 10, 2019 decision. The EPA’s decision will increase exposure of the Nation’s members to elevated levels of cancer-causing toxins when they consume fish and undermine the Nation’s ability to provide for its members’ health and welfare, according to the statement.

“Fish and shellfish are at the center of our diet, religion, economy and every aspect of our life,” said Quinault Nation President Fawn Sharp. “The EPA’s attempt to rollback protections for our health and clean water is an affront to the Quinault people and a violation of our treaty rights. If eating the fish we catch exposes us to quantities of toxins known to cause cancer and other severe health conditions our treaty rights amount to little more than an empty promise.”

The Nation’s treaty rights to fish in usual and accustomed places have been affirmed in the courts and those reserved rights “encompass waters of sufficient quality to maintain the fishery.” The usual and accustomed areas of the Quinault Nation include the waters within the boundaries of the Quinault reservation as well as Grays Harbor and the rivers and streams which empty into Grays Harbor.

“The EPA’s decision also threatens the health and livelihoods of non-tribal families across the Grays Harbor region where fishing commercially, for sport, and for subsistence is central to the economy and where eating fresh local fish and shellfish is a celebrated part of what makes living in this region special and unique,” added Sharp.

The Quinault Nation’s motion to intervene also charges that the EPA is in violation of the treaty between the Nation and the United States for failing to undertake government-to-government consultation with the Nation before making its decision.