Legislation passed today on the floor of the Washington state Senate on a 48-1 vote would help keep the water in the Spokane River and waterways around the state clean.

SB 6086, sponsored by Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, would reduce purchasing by state agencies of products containing polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.

PCBs are toxic chemicals used in a variety of industrial and commercial applications such as insulation, paints and some plastics. PCBs are a probable carcinogen and may have serious non-cancer health impacts, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Although the manufacture, processing and distribution of PCBs was partially banned in 1979, the use of PCBs still occurs, particularly in many yellow printing and paint pigments.

“We know PCBs are hazardous to human health, and these long-lasting toxins can run off into our rivers and contaminate the fish we eat and water we swim in,” said Billig. “Responsible stewardship of the environment should start with the state itself, and reducing the use of this toxin by state agencies will stimulate demand for PCB-free products and set an example for other users to follow.”

Under SB 6086, the Department of Enterprise Services would establish a purchasing and procurement policy that provides a preference for products and products in packaging that do not contain PCBs. Unless it is not technically feasible or cost effective, no state agency may purchase products or products in packaging that contain PCBs above the lowest concentration that can be reliably measured.

“Like many of the bills we work on in Olympia, this idea was brought to me by a constituent,” said Billig. “I’m glad that we have people in our district working hard for a fishable and swimmable Spokane River. The first bill I passed in the Legislature was also a clean water bill to keep our river safe and clean, and I plan to continue working on this important issue.”

The bill will now go to the House for consideration.