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Interested parties from the zinc, galvanizing, metal roofing, metal siding, steel distribution center, galvanized steel sheet production, and fabrication industries teleconferenced on January 12 to develop an action plan to protect and maintain zinc and zinc coated products access to markets in the state of Washington.  The state has taken a very unfavorable position toward zinc in the past 8-10 years and the coalition objective is to prevent legislation, similar to that in 2010 which drastically cut the use of copper.  First, some background information before detailing what we can all do to assist the coalition.

  • From 2007 – 2011 the Washington state Department of Ecology (DOE) studied zinc additions to Puget Sound and found roof runoff and tires contributed 1300 tons and 100 tons per year respectively to the Sound.  They published the findings in the “Control of Toxics” report.  (Note: based on government data, approximately 4,500 tons of zinc make their way into the Sound each year via natural cycles (wind, water currents, erosion, rain, etc.)
  • In 2010 Washington State and the federal EPA ignored IZA’s petition to update the 30 year old water quality standards using contemporary science but did encourage IZA to publish the “state of the science.”  (This may have been a political move to create the impression they are not working behind the scenes with industry to develop zinc limits favorable to industry and/or as a mean to gain access to technology and information both had failed to acquire over the last three decades.)
  • IZA published the known science in 2012, including the latest formulas and data from the biotic ligand model (BLM), incredibly, the same model used and accepted by EPA for copper assessment.
  • In 2012 – 2013, the Toxic Reduction Strategy Workgroup in Washington state was formed and using science almost 30 years old recommended zinc additions to the Sound be reduced by 97%.
  • Early in 2014 Governor Inslee issued a policy brief listing zinc, PCBs, and flame retardants as toxic threats. (It’s interesting zinc is grouped with these two chemicals known to be hazardous.)
  • According to the chief scientist within the governor’s administration, the policy brief will lead to the development of a Chemical Action Plan (CAP) and it in turn will lead to legislation.  Thanks to the good work of IZA’s Eric Van Genderen who met with the administration, he and any of us interested in this issue have been invited to participate on the panel developing the CAP.  This one to two-year process will hopefully use the latest science on toxicology (BLM) developed by IZA and others to create a common sense range for zinc in storm water generated in industrial use such as hot-dip galvanizing.  

Highlighting the difference in EPA philosophy from region to region and state to state, EPA Region Five (Great Lakes) has asked IZA to help them update their zinc standards.  If only all governments, state, provincial, and federal were eager to engage and partner with industry to develop economical and practical solutions.