EPA Lawsuit | Quinault Indian Nation

Quinault Nation Joins Lawsuit Against EPA


Taholah, WA – The Quinault Indian Nation on October 1, 2019 filed as an intervenor in the State of Washington’s lawsuit 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. The Nation’s motion supports the State of Washington’s lawsuit challenging a decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reverse 2016 clean water standards intended to reduce releases of persistent toxins such as PCBs and dioxin that are known to cause cancer and disrupt hormones in fish and the people who eat them.

EPA Lawsuit | Quinault Indian Nation
Lifting a net from the Quinault River in 1913

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.

“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 time and again 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.

EPA Lawsuit | Quinault Indian Nation
Quinault tribal members camping by the water in the early 1900’s

“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 EPA decision to unilaterally reverse the 2016 agreement between the State of Washington and the EPA to strengthen water quality standards violates the Clean Water Act which only allows the EPA to revise water quality standards to make them more stringent.

The Quinault Nation’s motion to intervene also charges that 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.

For more information contact:

Fawn Sharp, President, Quinault Indian Nation, fsharp@quinault.org, (360) 276-8211, ext. 1329

Rose Enos-Weedmark, Exec. Assistant to the President, renos@quinault.org, (360) 276-8211, ext. 2010

Mark Glyde, Quinault Indian Nation Communications, (206) 227-4346, mrglyde@gmail.com 

Quinault Division of Natural Resources

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