The U.S. Coast Guard will publish Monday a new rule establishing a standard for the allowable concentration of living organisms in ship ballast water that is discharged into U.S. waters, Christina McDonald, associate general counsel of regulatory affairs at the Department of Homeland Security said yesterday at the American Bar Association’s Homeland Security Law conference in Washington.
The purpose of the rule is to control the introduction of non-indigenous species from international oceangoing ships that can damage other forms of aquatic life and ecosystems.
The rule in the Federal Register comes a week after an unofficial, preview copy of the rule was posted online.
Vessel operators will have to install shipboard ballast-water treatment systems to achieve the new standard. The final rule does not include a more stringent, second-phase standard found in the Coast Guard’s original proposed rulemaking. The sea service said it scaled back the standards after scientists determined that existing technologies are not capable of detecting concentrations of organisms 100 to 1,000 smaller than the new standard.
The U.S. action follows the International Maritime Organization’s agreement several years ago requiring member nations to replace voluntary guidelines with a mandatory ballast water discharge standard. The agreement has not entered into force because it has not been ratified by enough countries, including the United States.
On Friday, the Coast Guard announced it will file its final environmental impact statement for the ballast water rule with the Environmental Protection Agency. The environmental impact statement evaluates the impact to the environment from a range of alternative ballast water discharge standards, including taking no action at all. — Eric Kulisch
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