News Feature | April 10, 2014

EPA, Coast Guard Take Conflicting Approaches To Water Policy

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


The government has a water policy conundrum on its hands. 

The EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard each have a role in determining ballast water management discharge standards. These standards pertain to how a vessel discharges water that is stored onboard to balance the vehicle. For instance, vessels are sometimes expected to incorporate technologies to support this process. 

These discharges are regulated because they can have an impact on the environment. "These discharges may result in negative environmental impacts via the addition of traditional pollutants or, in some cases, by contributing to the spread of aquatic invasive species," the EPA explained

But the EPA and the Coast Guard do not appear to be on the same page about this issue. The conflicting approaches surround dates for the implementation of certain standards. 

"Despite the Coast Guard's authority—and willingness—to grant extensions to its implementation schedule, the EPA confirmed that the implementation date for the 2013 ballast water management standards would not be extended to match those granted by the Coast Guard," attorneys from Blank Rome wrote in an analysis piece

For corporations trying to follow the rules, the conflict is making things a little confusing. 

"Legal firm K&L Gates are advising shipping companies that they face a conundrum regarding their obligations in meeting the U.S. ballast water discharge limits that have entered into force this year," Maritime Executive reported.  

Legislation currently under consideration in Congress aims to streamline oversight of ballast rules. 

"The proposed Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (S. 3094), introduced by Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) with much bipartisan support, would require the Coast Guard, in consultation with the EPA, to establish uniform national standards governing discharges incidental to the normal operation of a vessel. The standards would supersede all others, including state standards," BNA Bloomberg recently reported

Various technologies are available to treat ballast water. 

"Ballast water contains a variety of organisms including bacteria and viruses and the adult and larval stages of the many marine and coastal plants and animals. While the vast majority of such organisms will not survive to the point when the ballast is discharged, some may survive and thrive in their new environment," according to the engineering company Lloyd's Register. 

For more on government oversight, check out Water Online's Regulation and Legislation Solution Center

Image credit: "Coast Guard," Coast Guard News © 2008, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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