36 Great Lakes groups call on EPA to require stronger protections against invasive species in ballast water
FROM GREAT LAKES UNITED:
Thirty six diverse organizations from across the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River region joined together to call on the Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen a proposed permit regulating ballast water discharges from commercial vessels. The group letter was sent on the last day of the EPA's comment period on the permit. To view the letter, please click here. The EPA must now issue a final permit by November 30, 2012.
Invasive species introduced and spread via ballast water discharge are wreaking havoc on the Great Lakes and other U.S. waters. A litany of non-native invaders—including zebra mussels, quagga mussels, spiny water fleas, and round gobies—have turned the Great Lakes ecosystem on its head, altering the food web and threatening the health of native fish and wildlife. Non-native ballast water invaders cost Great Lakes citizens, utilities, cities, and businesses at least $1 billion every five years in damages and control costs, according to research by the University of Notre Dame.
The EPA's proposed ballast water permit takes steps to reduce the risk of ballast-mediated introductions, including:
- The significant transition from physical ballast tank management requirements to technology requirements. Under the EPA permit, ships will be required to install technology that meets the International Maritime Organization’s standard to treat ballast water before it is discharged.
- Requiring ships entering the Great Lakes to employ, in addition to technology, the added protection of exchanging ballast water to flush out and kill non-native freshwater organisms before treatment.
Conservation groups assert that the permit still leaves the Great Lakes and other U.S. waters vulnerable to the introduction and spread of invasive species. The groups are asking the EPA to make the following improvements to the permit:
- Adopt a zero-discharge standard for invasive species
- Adopt more protective technology standards nationwide, at least as strong as those proposed by New York and California
- Develop standards for lakers, ships that ply the Great Lakes
- Develop a faster implementation timeline to implement new technology standards.
Great Lakes United would like to thank these groups, and the many other organizations and individuals from across the region, who submitted comments to the EPA. Thank you for your longstanding efforts to protect the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River from invasive species!