Wednesday, July 13, 2011

SAB Final Review Of Ballast Water Treatment Systems

Jul 12: U.S. EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB) has issued its finalized advisory report -- Efficacy of Ballast Water Treatment Systems -- responding to a request from the Agency's Office of Water (OW) [See WIMS 5/24/11]. OW requested SAB to provide advice on technologies and systems to minimize the impacts of invasive species in vessel ballast water discharge. Vessel ballast water discharges are a major source of non-indigenous species introductions to marine, estuarine, and freshwater ecosystems of the United States.
    Ballast water discharges are regulated by the EPA under authority of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) under authority of the National Invasive Species Act (NISA). At present, Federal requirements for managing ballast water discharges rely primarily on ballast water exchange; however changes to federal ballast water regulations are under consideration. On August 28, 2009, the USCG proposed revising their existing rules to establish numeric concentration-based limits for live organisms in ballast water. The proposed rule would initially require compliance with a "Phase 1 standard" that has the same concentration limits as the International Maritime Organization (IMO) D-2 standard and subsequently require compliance with a more stringent "Phase 2 standard." EPA's existing CWA general permit for vessels will expire on Dec. 19, 2013. In its revisions to the vessel general permit, the EPA is considering numeric standards that limit the number of live organisms in discharged ballast water.
    To prepare the report, the SAB Panel reviewed a "Background and Issues Paper" prepared by OW and USCG (June 2010) as well as information on 51 existing or developmental ballast water management systems (BWMS) provided by OW and the public, although detailed data were available for only 15 BWMS.
    In addition to responding to four specific charge questions, the SAB Panel indicated, ". . .the Panel's overarching recommendation is that the EPA adopt a risk-based approach to minimize the impacts of invasive species in vessel ballast water discharge rather than relying solely on numeric standards for discharges from shipboard BWMS. The Panel found that insufficient attention has been given to integrated sets of practices and technologies that could be used to systematically advance ballast water management. These practices include managing ballast uptake to reduce the presence of invasive species, reducing invasion risk through operational adjustments and changes in ship design to reduce or eliminate the need for ballast water, development of voyage-based risk and/or hazard assessments, and treatment of ballast water in onshore reception facilities. The Panel recommended that a comprehensive analysis be done to compare biological effectiveness, cost, logistics, operations and safety associated with shipboard BWMS and onshore reception facilities."
    Access the complete 154-page review (click here). Access the Ballast Water Advisory panel website for background information and further details (click here).

NWF Assessment Of Progress On Great Lakes Compact

Jul 12: A report by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) provides an "honest critique" of the states' progress in efforts to implement the Great Lakes Compact. Marc Smith, senior policy manager for NWF's Great Lakes Regional Center said, "This report is a wake-up call to the states to step it up. The future of the Compact remains bright, but our Great Lakes need a renewed commitment by the states and the region to address the bad -- and prevent the ugly." The Compact is an agreement between the Governors of New York, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and the Premiers of Ontario and Quebec which ban new diversions of water from the Great Lakes basin and provide for coordinated conservation, use and data collection efforts.
    NWF indicates that the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact (Compact) is at a critical juncture.  The Compact, a binding agreement among the Great Lakes states to protect the water resources of the Great Lakes Basin from diversions and excessive withdrawals, became law two and a half years ago. Together with a similar agreement between the states and the Great Lakes Canadian provinces, the Compact set minimum requirements for water use across the Basin. Each state agreed to implement the Compact by meeting a series of deadlines over five years, subject to regional oversight. Today, implementation of the Compact is at the halfway point. Two deadlines have already passed, and the final deadline is December 8, 2013. 
    Sara Gosman, water resources attorney for the National Wildlife Federation's Regional Center, and author of the report said, "Halfway to the five-year mark, implementation of the Great Lakes Compact is progressing at a snail's pace. While some states have taken their obligations under the Compact seriously, and indeed chosen innovative approaches, many have opted for the lowest common denominator. All have failed to meet one or more of the deadlines. The Compact Council has not stepped up and held the states accountable. The Council is operating on a shoestring budget from a foundation grant and cannot even muster the resources to bring the state representatives together for a formal meeting more than once a year."
    The report -- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Implementation of the Great Lakes Compact" reviews the current status of state and regional implementation of the Compact in three critical areas: diversions out of the Basin; water conservation and efficiency; and water withdrawal permitting. For each area, the report gives examples of "the good, the bad…and the downright ugly."
    Among other examples cited as good in the report, NWF says that Michigan's groundbreaking online screening test for withdrawals, which has won three national awards, is a novel means of predicting resource impacts and providing users with a quick determination. However, the report identifies as "bad" that, "Michigan has failed to apply its permitting standard to proposed large withdrawals in a way that is consistent with its obligations under the Compact."
    The report points out that highlighting a case of "the ugly," the Ohio General Assembly recently passed legislation which NWF says "sinks to a new low in the annals of Compact implementation. This unbalanced bill is drastically at odds with the Great Lakes Compact and threatens water flows and concentrated pollutants, placing recreation, tourism, and wildlife at risk." Kristy Meyer, agricultural and clean water director with Ohio Environmental Council said, "As the Lake Erie state with the most to lose, Ohio has the distinction of having the weakest permitting program of all Great Lakes states, while clearly violating the Compact. Lake Erie could see increased harmful algal blooms, reduction in critical habitat for sport fish, such as walleye, perch and steelhead; and a loss of recreational opportunities."
    New York Representative Brian Higgins (D-NY), a member of the Congressional Great Lakes Task Force, sent a letter today (July 13) urging Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich to veto legislation in his state that would allow businesses to remove 5 million gallons of water a day from Lake Erie.  Rep. Higgins, whose district borders Lake Erie, warned that tapping into the Great Lakes would be "devastating environmentally and economically," and questioned the action from an "ethical and legal standpoint" saying the effort may violate the Great Lakes Compact approved by Congress in 2008. 
   Access a release and link to the complete report, executive summary and related information (click here). Access a release and letter from Rep. Higgins (click here).