Lawsuit launched to protect Washington’s endangered salmon, killer whales and trout from cyanide pollution

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PORTLAND, Ore.— Conservation organizations today filed formal notice of their intention to sue several federal agencies and the Washington Department of Ecology for their failure to protect several populations of Chinook and Coho Salmon, Southern Resident Killer Whales , rainbow trout and bull trout against the effects of cyanide in Washington waters.

According to the advisory, the Environmental Protection Agency and the state’s Ecology Department have set water quality standards under the Clean Water Act for cyanide pollution which is known to harm salmon. endangered and, in turn, to orcas that depend on fish for their staple food. .

“Over two decades ago, the EPA and Washington State set cyanide limits higher than what our precious salmon and killer whales need to have a chance of survival,” said Ryan Shannon, lawyer at Center. “But instead of fixing the known problem, the agencies did nothing. This failure is both illegal and quite simply false.

Under the Endangered Species Act, EPA approval of state-set water quality standards for pollutants, including cyanide, must first be reviewed by the National Marine Fisheries Service. and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure that approval does not jeopardize the survival of any endangered species. These standards in turn limit the release of cyanide and other pollutants into state waterways.

The EPA launched such a “consultation” on national standards that were supposed to cover Washington standards as well. But after the other two federal agencies determined that the standards would indeed jeopardize the survival and recovery of salmon, killer whales and bull trout and harm habitat critical to their survival, the EPA s ‘is withdrawn from the consultation for National and Washington standards.

“The EPA has sat down and watched these species decline,” said Jennifer Calkins, Diehl Fellow of the Western Environmental Law Center. “Now everyone from the rainbow trout to the southern resident killer whale faces a much greater risk of extinction because of the multitude of forces working against them, while continuing to struggle in. waters containing dangerous levels of cyanide. ”

Due to the EPA’s failure, toxic cyanide continues to be dumped into Washington rivers, harming fish, and the Department of Ecology continues to maintain and enforce quality standards for the EPA. obsolete and inadequate water for cyanide.

As a result, the state has allowed sources, including metal mining processes, the chemical industry, industrial steel plants, and public wastewater treatment facilities, to continue releasing dangerous levels of cyanide in Washington waters. This has resulted in conditions that threaten species already on the brink of extinction due to many threats, including warming waters, climate change and dams.

The organizations are represented by Andrew Hawley and Jennifer Calkins of the Western Environmental Law Center and Ryan Shannon of the Center for Biological Diversity.

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