Baykeeper Update

Protecting the Bay from Ship Pollution

Pollution from large vessels needs to be tightly regulated and the results publicly accessible, Baykeeper recently told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA is updating the national Vessel General Permit, which regulates many sources of pollution from commercial ships over 79 feet in length.

The large ship pollution sources under consideration include hull coatings, underwater hull cleaning, various types of wastewater and releases of ballast water.

Baykeeper generally supports the proposed new permit, but we recommended additional changes to make it stronger. Baykeeper urged the EPA to set a goal that ship ballast water released in U.S. waters contain no invasive species, or at least to make the standards as strict as those currently in force in California.

The San Francisco Bay-Delta is the most invaded aquatic ecosystem in North America and may be the most invaded estuary in the world. Invasive species crowd out native species and can cause their extinction. The EPA expects that the new rules will substantially reduce the risk of new invasive species becoming introduced here and in other U.S. waters.

We also urged the EPA to put annual ship inspection results online where they will be available for public review. In addition, Baykeeper pointed out that the EPA’s proposed standards for anti-fouling hull coatings, ship cleaning practices and cooling water discharges are too vague and unenforceable.

The EPA intends to issue the final permit in November 2012, a full year before compliance is due, to allow ship owners and operators time to prepare. The proposed new permit will not apply to large recreational or military ships.

Laws and regulations affecting San Francisco Bay are made and enforced by many different state and federal government agencies. Baykeeper takes every opportunity to advocate for stronger controls that provide real protection for the Bay.