In 2000, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adopted the California Toxics Rule, establishing water quality standards for pollutants toxic to the state’s rivers, lakes, bays, estuaries, and wildlife.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service found several of these water quality standards to be inadequate to protect 25 endangered wildlife species, including coho and Chinook salmon, steelhead trout, and the southern sea otter.
Standards for selenium, mercury, pentachlorophenol, cadmium, and heavy metals were found to be the most problematic for listed species and their designated critical habitat. The EPA agreed to revise these standards to adequately protect endangered species. Nearly thirteen years later, EPA has failed to finalize the criteria for selenium and mercury or fully revise and implement the criteria for pentachlorophenol, cadmium, and the formulas used to calculate water quality criteria for several other dissolved metals criteria.
The EPA is long overdue to incorporate these measures fully into the California Toxics Rule.