Strickland, Kilmer Lead Letter to Fund Research into Toxic Chemicals Killing Coho Salmon
Washington, D.C.—Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland (WA-10) and Congressman Derek Kilmer (WA-6) led a letter to House and Senate Democratic Leadership and the Chairs of the House and Senate Budget Committees requesting $1,525,000 of funding in the reconciliation package for further research into 6PPD-quinone, the chemical from tires and recycled rubber killing coho salmon in the Pacific Northwest.The letter builds on Strickland’s recent amendment to the appropriations minibus package, highlights the critical role salmon play in the Pacific Northwest economy and culture, and emphasizes the importance of taking immediate action to study 6PPD-quinone and its impact on salmon and other species. The letter was also signed by Reps. Suzan DelBene (WA-1), Pramila Jayapal (WA-7), and Adam Smith (WA-9).Please find the letter attached and below.
“Salmon are an integral part of our history, culture, economy, and way of life in the Pacific Northwest, especially for our Tribal nations,” said Rep. Strickland. “Our salmon are dying now, and we cannot afford to wait another two decades for the next research breakthrough. We must robustly fund research into 6PPD-quinone today, which is why Rep. Kilmer and I are urging Congress to take action now to save our salmon before it's too late.”
"We know that toxic stormwater runoff is one of the biggest threats facing Puget Sound salmon recovery," said Rep. Kilmer. "That’s why Rep. Strickland and I are working to secure federal support for critical research that will help scientists and researchers understand the link between tire debris and the health of our Sound - as well as the species that depend on it. I am grateful for Rep. Strickland’s leadership and partnership as we work to advance this urgent priority.”
“There is still so much we don’t know about 6PPD-quinone, the impact of this toxic chemical on Washington’s coho salmon, and how other species are impacted in other geographies. Science must lead the way. We thank Congresswoman Strickland for her advocacy and bringing this issue to Congress,” said Dr. Joel Baker, Professor and Science Director, University of Washington Tacoma Center for Urban Waters.
“The funding proposed in this letter would dramatically accelerate research of 6PPD-quinone and its impact on Washington wildlife and waters,” said Dr. John Stark, Director,Washington State University’s Washington Stormwater Center. We are grateful to Congresswoman Strickland for listening to the science, taking action, and fighting to put this issue on the national radar in Congress. We look forward to working with her on this important research. ”
The letter is the latest in a series of efforts by Rep. Strickland to raise the profile of this issue. Strickland recently introduced an amendment, which was included in H.R. 4502, the appropriations minibus package, highlighting the urgency of the problem and the need to commit to funding research at the scale needed to address it. Congresswoman Strickland also participated in a House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing on this topic on July 15th.
Congresswoman Strickland has made environmental protection and restoration a priority throughout her first term in Congress. In June, the House passed the PUGET SOS Act of 2021 co-led by Congresswoman Strickland and Congressman Kilmer to enhance the federal government’s role and investment in the Puget Sound. This came shortly after Strickland and Kilmer secured a historic funding increase for Puget Sound restoration earlier that month from the House Appropriations Subcommittee. In April, Strickland led a letter to the Subcommittee, cosigned by nearly the entire Washington delegation, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio, and Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Raùl Grijalva requesting funding for the program at $50 million. Strickland also co-chairs the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus, founded in 2013 by Rep. Derek Kilmer and former Rep. Denny Heck with Derek Kilmer. The Caucus focuses on recovering Puget Sound through steps like preventing pollution from urban stormwater runoff, protecting and restoring habitat, and restoring and re-opening shellfish beds.
According to David Troutt, the Director of Natural Resources for the Nisqually Tribe, the Nisqually Indian Tribe, which in 1987 fished the Nisqually River 105 days a year, was reduced to 8 days a year in 2015. The continued decline in coho and other salmon populations has already had a devastating impact on these communities.
Biologists have observed coho salmon dying from mysterious symptoms in Pacific Northwest urban streams for decades. However, it is only in the past year after a 20-year and $5 million research effort that a team of scientists from the Center for Urban Waters and Washington Stormwater Center discovered the cause: a toxic chemical called 6PPD-quinone, created when a commonly used antiozonant in tires interacts with ozone. This chemical runs into local streams when it rains, entering the bloodstream of coho salmon and killing them.
Further research into 6PPD-quinone is needed to fully understand the chemical’s impact on other species and in other geographies. The full impact of 6PPD-quinone needs to be understood so that a long-lasting solution to the dangers it poses can be found.
The letter text can be found below:
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Chair Yarmuth, and Chair Sanders,
We thank you for your leadership this Congress in advancing priorities critical to our constituents and the American people. We write to express our strong support to reverse the steep decline in the salmon population and ask you to include at least $1,525,000 in funding in the reconciliation package for further research on the chemical from tires and recycled rubber killing salmon in the Pacific Northwest.
Salmon are a keystone species and an economic engine in Washington state. Salmon nourish our streams and forests, help support our orcas and dozens of other species, and create jobs – salmon fishing alone creates over $100 million in annual economic activity in Washington, and salmon are the linchpin behind our state’s fishing industry, which brings in over $1.1 billion and provides over 16,000 jobs.
Biologists have observed coho salmon dying from mysterious symptoms in Pacific Northwest urban streams for decades. However, it is only in the past year that a team of scientists from the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Waters and Washington State University’s Washington Stormwater Center discovered the cause: a toxic chemical called 6PPD-quinone, created when a commonly used antiozonant in tires interacts with ozone. This chemical runs into local streams when it rains, entering the bloodstream of coho salmon and killing them.
On July 15th, Dr. Jenifer McIntyre, one of the study’s lead researchers, discussed her research at a Committee on Natural Resources hearing. Dr. McIntyre spoke at length on the twenty year, five million dollar process of arriving at their significant finding. She also highlighted how little we still know about 6PPD-quinone and the importance of further research on its impact on other species and in other geographies. In discussions we have had with other members of the research team, the message has been equally clear: we must let science lead the way in determining the full impact of 6PPD-quinone and how we can find a long-lasting solution to the dangers it poses.
Also testifying at the hearing was David Troutt, Director of Natural Resources for the Nisqually Indian Tribe. Like many tribes in Washington and throughout the Pacific Northwest, salmon are more than a resource for the Nisqually; salmon and the river are the wellspring of their culture and fundamental to the Nisqually way of life. When Director Troutt was asked about the impact that the continuously decreasing population of salmon has on his tribe, he did not mince words.
“This is already having a devastating impact to our community. In 1987, we were fishing 105 days a year. As of 2015, that has been reduced to 8 days… and if the coho populations continue to decline, I’m afraid 8 days will go down to no days. That will have a devastating impact on our community, disconnecting them from the place they’ve been for 10,000 years.”
Madam Speaker, Mr. Leader, Chair Yarmuth, and Chair Sanders, we cannot afford to wait another 20 years for science to find the answers we need. We need to robustly fund research into this issue today. After consultation with experts on this issue, we therefore request that the following be included in Region 10 of the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program account in the final reconciliation package:
- $900,000 for researchers, staff, laboratory instrumentation, and computational resources to sharpen laboratory-based surveillance methods to conduct further research on the occurrence and impacts of novel consumer product chemicals in U.S. coastal waters. This investment will support a regional scientific capacity of critical importance to the Puget Sound recovery effort and provide nationally important leadership in advancing the necessary transition to environmentally safe consumer chemicals.
- $250,000 to study the impacts of tire chemicals on aquatic species in U.S. coastal waters. Although the tire chemical break-down product 6PPD-quinone has been found to be toxic to Coho salmon, we don’t know if this or related chemicals are toxic to other organisms. This funding will be used to evaluate the toxicity of 6PPD and 6PPD-quinone to keystone aquatic species of the Pacific Northwest, including salmon, forage fishes, and aquatic invertebrates, to determine their susceptibility to these chemicals.
- $250,000 to develop and refine stormwater treatment technologies for the removal of 6PPD and 6PPD-quinone from stormwater. Although limited data show that rain gardens will remove the toxic components of stormwater to coho salmon, the mechanism of this removal is not known. This funding will be used to study technologies and filtration systems which can remove these chemicals from stormwater prior to environmental release.
- $125,000 to empower communities, and in particular historically underrepresented communities, with accessible Puget Sound simulation modeling tools. These tools will help individuals and community groups contribute to solving challenging societal decisions about the future of our region.
By including dedicated funding for research into this toxic chemical in the reconciliation package, we are rapidly accelerating the pace of this research, helping keep our covenant to our tribal nations and ensuring that our children can enjoy the same extraordinary ecology and biodiversity that makes the Pacific Northwest unique.
Member of Congress
Member of Congress
Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland serves as Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and is the only African-American woman to serve on the House Armed Services Committee. She is one of the first Korean-American women elected to Congress and the first African-American to represent the Pacific Northwest at the federal level.
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