CLE: Fish, Water, and Health: Water Quality Standards in Washington

Continuing Legal Education (1.0 Credits)

Professor Catherine O’Neill Seattle University School of Law

June 25, 2014 from 4:00-5:00pm at Ivar’s Salmon House

Click here for registration information.

This event takes place in conjunction with CELP’s Annual Event, Celebrate Water. You can attend just the CLE or BOTH! 

Fish, Water, and Health: Water Quality Standards in Washington

Eating fish is the primary way that humans are exposed to PCBs, mercury, and many other toxic pollutants. We know these chemicals cause cancer, permanent neurological damage, and other harms. Yet fish, if they aren’t contaminated, are an excellent source of protein, omega fatty acids, and other nutrients. Doctors would like to see people eat more, not less, of this healthful food. So the question becomes: how much fish can we safely consume? Everyone knows that Washington’s current fish consumption standard is unreasonably low, but the state has been reluctant to adopt a more protective standard, like that of Oregon, because a more protective standard will require more stringent pollution and clean-up standards for Washington’s waterways—standards that industry asserts are unachievable.

Professor Catherine O’Neill of Seattle University School of Law will provide new insights into the legal and scientific complexities underpinning this hot button policy issue. Professor O’Neill has written extensively on the legal issues underpinning this important policy decision that implicates civil rights, environmental justice, human health and natural resource protection, including: Fishable Waters (American Indian Law Journal, 2013); No Mud Pies: Risk Avoidance as Risk Regulation (Vermont Law Review, 2007); Mercury, Risk, and Justice (Environmental Law Reporter, 2004); and Variable Justice: Environmental Standards, Contaminated Fish, and “Acceptable” Risk to Native Peoples (Stanford Environmental Law Journal, 2000).

Read Professor O’Neill’s recent OpEd with Frank James on fish consumption in The Seattle Times here.


Biography of Catherine O’Neill

Professor O’Neill was a Ford Foundation Graduate Fellow at Harvard Law School. She came to the Northwest in 1992 as an environmental planner and air toxics coordinator for the Washington State Department of Ecology. From 1994 to1997, she was a Lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law. From 1997 to 2001, Professor O’Neill was Assistant, then Associate Professor at the University of Arizona College of Law. She is a Professor at Seattle University School of Law and is a Faculty Fellow with the Law School’s Center for Indian Law & Policy.

Professor O’Neill’s research focuses on issues of justice in environmental law and policy; in particular, her work considers the effects of contamination and depletion of fish and other resources relied upon by tribes and their members, communities of color and low-income communities. She has worked with the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council on its Fish Consumption Report; with various tribes in the Pacific Northwest and the Great Lakes on issues of contaminated fish and waters; and with environmental justice groups in the Southwest on air and water pollution issues. Professor O’Neill has testified before Congress on regulations governing mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. She has also served as a pro bono consultant to the attorneys for the National Congress of American Indians and other tribes in litigation challenging these mercury regulations. Professor O’Neill is a Member Scholar with the Center for Progressive Reform.