House committee OKs ballast water measure
By Tina Lam
Detroit Free Press
Published June 29, 2007
Efforts to stop invasive species from entering the Great Lakes got a boost from Congress, but environmental groups said it won’t be soon enough. A U.S. House committee passed a measure requiring oceangoing ships to install by 2013 equipment to scrub their ballast water before they enter the Great Lakes. The measure is expected to easily win approval from the full House soon.
“I think this is cause for huge celebration by every citizen in Michigan,” said U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, a Republican from Harrison Township and member of the Transportation committee that approved the bill. “Congress has been talking about this for 20 years, but couldn’t get off the dime. This is a huge step forward.”
Environmental groups who have pushing to stop invasive species said the measure’s timetable is too slow. It gives ships until 2013 to install new systems to filter tiny organisms out of salty ballast water, but that deadline could be extended to 2015 if the Coast Guard says the technology is not available.
”I’m glad Congress is budging but there have been too many pest species entering the Great Lakes for too long, and this is years away,” said Cameron Davis, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes. “We need to nail the door shut on further invasions now.”
Davis said on average, a new invasive creature enters the lakes every seven or eight months. The most recent invasive pest believed to have been brought in a ship’s ballast water is a fish-killing virus first discovered last November. It has already spread to four of the Great Lakes.
Michigan enacted its own requirements for ocean ships on Jan. 1, requiring them to install equipment to sanitize their ballast water before they discharge it in Michigan ports. Shippers argue that proper technology is not yet available. The state Department of Environmental Quality said there are four systems currently available.
Shippers sued the state over the measure and a hearing is scheduled in the case next month.
Last week, a coalition of environmental groups started a lawsuit against the shippers under the Environmental Protection Act. Davis said that lawsuit would go forward regardless of Congress’ action. Among other invasive species that hitched rides in ballast water: zebra and quagga mussels, round goby fish and lamprey eel.