Department of Ecology News Release - February 22, 2024
Updated: March 13, 2024

Ecology proposes new and updated limits for toxics in water

Update: We have extended the comment period and added an additional informational workshop. Comments are now due May 7, 2024

Coho salmon at Hoko Falls. Kevin Long, North Olympic Salmon Coalition


Washington’s waters could soon see more protective limits for dozens of toxic chemicals, meaning cleaner water and a healthier environment for all creatures that call our state’s rivers, streams, and Puget Sound home.

The Department of Ecology is proposing a major update to the state’s aquatic life toxics criteria. As part of the state’s rules for how clean state waters need to be, the aquatic life toxics criteria are designed to protect aquatic life, such as fish and invertebrates, from the effects of toxic chemicals in the water. The criteria include limits for marine and fresh water, and limits to protect aquatic life from both immediate (acute) effects, such as death, and long-term (chronic) effects, such as changes in growth and reproduction.

Currently, Washington has aquatic life toxics criteria for 28 toxic chemicals. Ecology is proposing to update the criteria for 16 these chemicals and add 14 more chemicals to the list for a total of 42. Well-known chemicals already on the list such as arsenic, copper, nickel, silver, zinc are receiving updates to better protect aquatic life from these chemicals. Proposed new additions to Washington’s list include PFOA and PFOS (part of the PFAS chemical group), aluminum, and the emerging chemical of concern 6PPD-quinone, the chemical that comes from tires and is toxic to salmon.

Washington’s last major update to these criteria was 30 years ago. Ecology is proposing these updates now based on updated science and new research, new methods and modeling tools, recommendations from EPA and Tribal governments, and public input encouraging Ecology to prioritize this work.

Once finalized by Ecology and approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the updated criteria will become part of water quality permits and used to identify polluted waters that need cleanup plans.

Provide input

Ecology is accepting public comments on this rule through May 7, 2024. All rulemaking documents are available on the aquatic life toxics rulemaking webpage.

Submit comments online, by mail, or at a public hearing:

  • Comment online
  • Mail to:
    Marla Koberstein
    Department of Ecology
    Water Quality Program
    P.O. Box 47696
    Olympia, WA 98504-7696

Public workshop and hearings

Ecology will hold virtual public workshop and hearings at:

Ecology will provide an overview of the proposed rule and hold a question-and-answer period. The hearings will have additional time for public comment.

Contact information

Colleen Keltz