It's decades overdue. And it's going to immensely slow the introduction of invasive species into the Great Lakes.
On Wednesday, the federal Environmental Protection Agency released a draft of a new rule that will require overseas ships visiting the lakes to eventually install treatment systems for ship-steadying ballast tanks. Contaminated ballast discharges are the preferred pathway for hitchhikers such as quagga mussels, zebra mussels, round gobies and dozens of the ecosystem-fouling invaders that have arrived since the St. Lawrence Seaway opened the lakes to deep-draft foreign vessels over a half-century ago.
Read more: http://www.kansascity.com/2011/12/02/3297359/ship-ballast-rule-geared-to-protect.html#ixzz1fOt3EdrG
Am I thrilled that the EPA is giving shipping companies TWO YEARS to get their act together and install the treatment systems, while more and more exotic species could be getting dumped into the Great Lakes with every salt water ship?
No. I'm not thrilled. On the other hand, the shipping companies can't swing this change on a dime. They'll reasonably need some time to change over. Fine.
Yeah...they should have done it decades ago. But to be fair, the EPA and the Coast Guard should have demanded these changes decades ago. Had they enforced the laws that were in place, maybe we'd be in a different spot. It's not like there hasn't been years and years and years and years and years and years and years of warnings.
The BEST part of this bill? It doesn't restrict states from implementing their own, more stringent requirements on ballast water...to which I issue my heartiest HA HA to the salt water shipping companies. Cuz if ANY state creates stricter guidelines, the ships have to conform to the strictest regulatory requirements.
Even if Wisconsin uses the minimum of Federal requirements it doesn't matter because the ships STILL have to go through New York's waters to get there, and New York is working on a bill that is ONE HUNDRED TIMES more strict that the International Maritime Organization standards.
If a ship doesn't conform to New York's standards...they're not getting through to Wisconsin. Tee hee. But New York is giving the shipping companies until 2016 to conform to THOSE rules. So...it's not like they're unreasonable.
For those who aren't sure what this is all about:
Saltwater vessels coming into the Great Lakes have been been bringing invasive species into these waters for half a century. The ships constantly need to change their ballast water as they load and unload cargo. It's like a floating million gallon aquarium, dumping critters from different ports into the great lakes.
It's been a disaster for the Great Lakes. Not just the Great Lakes, but every fresh water system that connects to the Great Lakes including the Mississippi River watershed (Which is only connecting the Great Lakes watershed though an artificial connection in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal). If you've got zebra mussels where you're living, you can thank lax and unenforced ballast water requirements.