U.S. Water News Online
CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Shipping companies and
environmentalists are trying to come up with a reasonable cost method
for keeping foreign marine species out of the waters of the nation's
The issue is particularly important for Charleston, where millions
of gallons of ballast water are potentially dumped into the harbor
Seawater is drawn and discharged by large ships for balance as
they carry heavy cargo.
But when they carry water from one part of the world to another,
they also bring animal and plant life that can harm native species
U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Eddie Lesane said there have been no
reports of invasive species in Charleston from ship ballast.
Steve de Kozlowski of the state Natural Resources Department says
there are hundreds of species already loose in South Carolina, but
only a few are destructive enough to be much of a problem.
"We are certainly an at-risk city, with our coastal waters
extremely important for our economy and quality of life," said Nancy
Vinson of the Coastal Conservation League. "It's high time we deal
with these kinds of environmental and human health threats in an
Ships are required to drop their foreign ballast water at least
200 miles offshore and pick up more local water.
Failing to do so can result in fines or charges. The Coast Guard
reviews ship logs and occasionally checks ballast water for salinity
to make sure the exchange has taken place.
No one has been charged in the United States so far, said Bivan
Patnaik, Coast Guard environmental regulations coordinator. Several
warning letters and fines less than $27,000 have been issued.
"The Coast Guard doesn't know anything about invasive species or
water quality," said Tim Eichenberg of the Ocean Conservancy.
The conservancy wants the federal Environmental Protection Agency
to set standards and issue permits for handling ballast and has won a
court ruling that the water cannot be exempt from EPA regulations for
The EPA and U.S. Justice Department can appeal the decision and
have two years to create regulations for ballast water.
Those regulations could include tighter enforcement of offshore
exchange to filters or other forms of treatment of the ballast water.
In California, some ships are being outfitted with treatment
devices that can cost as much as $500,000 for installation.
Among those is Matson, a Pacific Ocean container ship company.
The Hawaii-based company has had "a little more sensitivity" to
environmental protection, said spokesman Jeff Hull. "I can't speak
for the industry as a whole, but I think there's some momentum here
with green initiatives."
But even with new regulations, there still is the problem of
"How do you enforce it without putting an inspector on every ship
in international waters?" asked EPA spokesman Dale Kemery.
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