Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

Senator Doug Whitsett
R- Klamath Falls, District 28

Phone: 503-986-1728    900 Court St. NE, S-303, Salem, Oregon 97301
Email: sen.dougwhitsett@state.or.us
Website: http://www.leg.state.or.us/whitsett
State Seal
E-Newsletter  March 11, 2011


The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is in the process of adopting the most restrictive water quality standards in the nation. The proposed human health criterion standards relate to the highest concentration of a pollutant in water that is alleged to not pose a significant human health risk. The numeric standards being proposed for Oregon are an order of magnitude tougher than any of the other 49 states in the US. Compliance with the new Human Health Toxics standards will be virtually impossible because in many situations the selected numeric standards exceed the normal background concentration of the regulated pollutant. These new rules have the potential to profoundly affect the fiscal soundness of businesses, agriculture and forestry in the state. They may be expected to have an extreme negative effect on Oregon’s future job growth and economic recovery.

These new requirements for water quality standards rules are based upon the amount of fish that ODEQ assumes to be consumed by certain tribal entities in Oregon. However, closer evaluation of the scientific protocol used to delineate the proposed standards reveals an apparent lack of empirical scientific data collection, as well as a lack of reproducibility of the data sets.

 When the ODEQ was recently queried in a legislative hearing about the background used to formulate the new rules, they replied in the following written form:

 Legislature: “How many Oregonians are eating the amount of fish that (the ODEQ) proposed water quality standards are based upon?

 The reply from ODEQ was: “We are not aware of any studies that quantify the fish consumption of all Oregonians.”

 Legislature: “Is the DEQ aware of any studies documenting the harm to human beings related to toxins consumed through a fish-oriented diet?”

 ODEQ reply: “We are not aware of any such reports.”

 Legislature: “Does the DEQ have information on the statistical confidence in the studies that the proposed rules are based upon?”

 ODEQ reply: “DEQ convened a Human Health Focus Group…. the group recommended that DEQ rely on five studies, four conducted in the Pacific Northwest and one national study.

 The five studies include one undertaken in 2002 by the EPA (*see direct links below, 2002 EPA Estimated Per Capita Fish consumption in the United States). http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/fish/files/consumption_report.pdf.

 Examples of the quality of research reported from this study include the following:

 P11 “The CSFII surveys have advantages and limitation for estimating per capita fish consumption. One limitation of the CFSII surveys is that individual food consumption data were collected for only two days, a brief period, which does not necessarily depict “usual intake.”


 “Survey participants provided two non-consecutive, 24 days of dietary data. Both days’ dietary recall information was collected by an in-home interviewer.”


 P 23 “The day 2 interview occurred three to 10 days after the Day 1 interview, but not on the same day of the week. The interviews allowed participants “three passes” through the daily intake record to maximize recall. Two days of dietary recall data were provided by 20,607 individuals across the four survey years. This constitutes an overall two-day response rate of 77.5%. In other words, three attempts were made to have the respondents recall from memory the desired intake amount.


 Sec 1.3 “Low income individuals are oversampled to ensure their representation in the survey.” This sentence represents a scientific oxymoron because a survey should be represented by unaltered and broadly selected samples, not by manipulated sampling methods.


 Because daily averages are estimated from each respondent from only two days, the precision of an individual’s daily average consumption is diminished. Therefore the limited-time period of dietary intake collection does not produce usual intake estimates.”


 P 27 “Non-consumption of a given food or food group by a majority of individuals, combined with consumption data from high–end consumers can result in a wide range of observations. This can lead to a highly-skewed distribution of consumption values.”

 Further evidence of questionable data gathering are found in quotes from the ODEQ’s supposedly “scientifically sound and relevant report” entitled Human Health Focus Group Report - Oregon Fish and Shellfish Consumption Rate Project, June 2008 .


This report appears to be nothing more than a literature review wherein the data was exclusively comprised from existing literature.

 P3 “The discussion and conclusions presented in this report were generated in one year May 2007-2008, a relatively short time considering the scope of the questions addressed.”


 P4-5 “Oregon’s current numeric human health criteria are based on EPA’s 2002 recommended Clean Water Act Section 304(a) water quality criteria. EPA derived these criteria by considering the known toxicity of the regulated chemical and the likely exposure people have to these chemicals . EPA’s current recommended CWA Section 304 (a) human health based water quality criteria are calculated using the national fish consumption rate of 17.5g/day. This nationally recommended rate is roughly equivalent to two – 8 oz fish meals per month. This rate represents the 90th percentile of all people who were interviewed from across the US. Until 2003 Oregon’s water quality standards were based on a fish consumption rate of 6.5 g/day consistent with EPA’s default fish consumption rate. EPA increased its recommended rates to a nationally based per capita default level of 17.5 g/day while urging states to rely on local consumption data wherever possible.”

          In other words ODEQ’s proposed fish consumption is 175 g/day, an order of magnitude greater than the recent EPA’s 3- fold increase. Before that three-fold increase the fish consumption standard was about 5 pounds per year. The proposed ODEQ standard is 140 pounds per year!

 Another report quoted by the ODEQ is the 17 year old study “Fish Consumption Survey of the Umatilla, Nez Perce, Yakama, and Warm Springs Tribes of the Columbia Basin (CRITFC 1994).   http://www.critfc.org/tech/94-3report.html It states:

 “The survey of Columbia River Basin Tribes is regarded as the study most relevant to Oregon fish consumers.” “No consumption of any shellfish or open ocean fin fish was reported. Since these questions were not asked in the interview, it is not clear how this may have affected the fish consumption rates reported by the Columbia River Tribes.”


 P 10 “Although the raw data were not available for re-analysis, there was good documentation of the summary statistics conducted.” “The survey interviewers noted that individuals had difficulties in reporting the quantity of fish they consumed. Overall, there was not sufficient information to calculate reliable fish consumption estimates.”

What is the scientific relevance of a study based on “good documentation of summary statistics” based on information that was not sufficient to even calculate fish consumption estimates?

 From the report Fish Consumption Survey of the Suquamish Indian Tribe of the Port Madison Indian Reservation, Puget Sound Region 2000 (an eleven year old survey of a Washington tribe)


 “The Suquamish staff chose to include high consumption rates because they were familiar with the individuals eating those large quantities and that the consumption rates reported were likely to reflect real consumption. With no adjustments made for the high consumption rates, it was noted that the reported means may be highly influenced by the consumption of just a few individuals.”

Does this statement imply that the researchers purposely selected individuals who ate large quantities of fish and then used that level of consumption as the average consumption rate in order to inflate the true amount of fish eaten by the average Tribal member?

 From the study, A Fish Consumption Survey of the Tulalip and Squaxin Island Tribes of the Puget Sound Region (Troy et al. 1996) Another Washington state survey which is 15 years old.


 “The Tribes survey is regarded as being relevant to Oregon fish consuming populations although some of the fish and shellfish they consumed may not be found in Oregon waters.”

 And the final study quoted for the new ODEQ water quality standards determination, The Lake Whatcome Residential and Angler Fish Consumption Survey (Washington Department of Health 2001)   http://www.doh.wa.gov.ehp/oehas/publications_pdf/whatcomesurvey.pdf

 “The fish consumption rates from this survey were not useful because of inconsistencies on how the interviewee reported their fish consumption. The four week recall diet limited the ability to fully quantify fish consumption due to the low number of people that consumed fish during that period.”

 All five of these reports, which are being used to force Oregon’s businesses, agriculture and forestry to comply with the most restrictive water quality standards in the United States, are chocked full of the disclaimer language as exampled above. One of the “sound scientific” reports was nothing more than a literature review. The new ODEQ standards are based on fish consumption rates ten times greater than current EPA national values.

Moreover, the proposed rules appear to assume that the levels of the toxics found in fish are the result of the fish acquiring those levels of toxics exclusively from their contact with fresh water in Oregon. Salmon, steelhead, ocean bottom fish, many shellfish and crabs, and a variety of other fish species spend the preponderance of their life cycle in the ocean. Strict implementation of the proposed rules on Oregon fresh water bodies would have little if any effect on the toxics concentration found in these species.

To summarize, the new rules are based on the amount of fish assumed to be eaten by certain Oregonians. The assumed average annual rate of fish consumption has been recently revised from about 5 pounds to about 140 pounds. That 28 fold increase is based on little more than speculation. The influence ocean water on species that spend most of their lifecycles in that environment appears to be ignored.

In my opinion, the scientific relevance of these studies is at best pathetic and at worst criminally negligent.

 Please remember that if we do not stand up for rural Oregon no one will.

 Best regards,


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              Page Updated: Tuesday March 22, 2011 01:58 AM  Pacific

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