Saturday, March 7, 2009

NPDES General Permit for Vessels - Potential EPA Review

The Environmental Protection Agency has indicated that the agency plans to reconsider rules to control discharges from vessels which were finalized in December 2008 and made effective February 6, 2009. Environmental groups also sued EPA in February 2009, saying the permit did not meet requirements of the Clean Water Act.

In December, the EPA released a general permit for cargo vessels entering the Great Lakes or other US waters from overseas that includes rules for 26 types of discharges, such as ballast, oily bilge water and "gray water", deck runoff and engine cooling water. Beginning on February 6, 2009, vessels ranging from large cruise ships to barges, tankers and many recreational vessels have to obtain permit coverage and meet certain requirements under the terms of the Vessel General Permit (VGP). These new requirements include best management practices and standards that differ depending on the type of discharge and the type of vessel. Recordkeeping requirements, self reporting, training and other obligations are also required for vessel owners and operators.

One of the key goals of the permit program is to control the spread of invasive species. Ballast water is a leading pathway for the spread of zebra mussels and other non-native aquatic species, which can displace native species and result in significant damage. The agency now believes that the VGP may do too little to prevent cargo ships from spreading invasive species. Similar measures have already had been required by Canada and the U.S. Coast Guard, and evidence suggests that they have been ineffective at controlling the spread of invasive species.

On the Great Lakes System, Minnesota and Michigan set up their own discharge permit programs before the EPA completed its VGP. The other Great Lakes states, except Wisconsin, added their own specifications to the EPA rules. Wisconsin state water officials adopted the VGP without amendments.

Caltha LLP assists wastewater dischargers to obtain NPDES permits, evaluate regulatory requirements, and to develop cost effective compliance programs.

For further information contact Caltha LLP at
Caltha LLP Website

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