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Great Lakes Article:

Great Lakes face problem; EPA must act to correct it
The Advocate
Editorial
09/26/03


It is clear that more protection is needed, and jurisdictional issues must be addressed. A recent decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides strong evidence of why it's important for Ohio officials to keep the pressure on for federal action against invasive species.

The EPA has said it won't require permits for ships discharging ballast water despite complaints that the discharges are introducing invasive species into the Great Lakes and elsewhere.

The EPA said the U.S. Coast Guard has jurisdiction over ships that discharge ballast water. Right now, the Coast Guard requires ships to discharge ballast water before entering U.S. ports, but compliance is voluntary.

In 1999, the Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center and other environmental groups asked the EPA to regulate ballast water discharges under the Clean Water Act. But the EPA said ballast water is considered "discharge incidental to the normal operation of a vessel" and therefore not subject to permits.

The EPA also said requiring permits would be impractical, because there are more than 78,000 commercial cargo ships and 110,000 commercial fishing ships docking in U.S. ports each year.

The EPA may have made the right decision, but coupled with the lack of enforcement of the Coast Guard requirement, it provides clear evidence that our lakes are not being protected from species that are potentially dangerous to our economy and our quality of life.

Bills before Congress would give the EPA and the Coast Guard dual authority over ballast water. One would spend more to research invasive species such as the zebra mussel, which has cost Great Lakes states' economy billions of dollars during the past decade.

Research could be critical if lawmakers want to convince the federal government to control ballast water discharge.

And pressure from home could be critical, too.


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