Feds establish 3-mile no-sewage-discarge zone for ships off Calif.

The following is the text of a press release issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 9:
(SAN FRANCISCO) — U.S. EPA’s Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld will today announce details of the Agency’s proposal to ban all sewage discharges from large cruise ships and most other large ocean-going ships to the marine waters along California’s entire coastline.
This will establish the largest coastal ‘No Discharge Zone’ in the United States and is expected to eliminate millions of gallons of sewage that large ships discharge every year into local waters.
“California’s coastal waters are a unique national treasure. The clear waters of the Pacific are central to California’s economic and ecological vitality. Stopping 20 million gallons of sewage from entering California’s coastal waters and bays protects people and wildlife from dangerous pathogens,†said Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld.
This action will strengthen protection for 5,222 square miles of California’s ports and coastal waters, extending from the border with Mexico to Oregon and the waters surrounding major islands. Today’s action proposes a new federal regulation to establish the sewage discharge ban.
“California’s beautiful beaches attract millions of tourists every year and we have fought hard to keep it that way. Pollution from these ships is a direct threat to our natural resources and the local economies that depend on tourism dollars. I commend U.S. EPA for this significant step forward in ensuring that our coastline remains pristine,â€â€¬â€ª said Linda Adams, California’s Secretary for Environmental Protection.
The ban will prohibit sewage discharges from all 300+ ton vessels, including cruise and cargo ships that operate in California waters.
“Big ships make for big pollution but unfortunately, responsible disposal of sewage from ships hasn’t always been a given in California,†said Marcie Keever, Oceans & Vessels Campaign Director at Friends of the Earth. “The actions taken by U.S. EPA, the State of California, and the thousands of Californians who supported the Clean Coast Act mean that cruise lines and the shipping industry can no longer use California’s valuable coastal and bay waters as their toilet.â€
Under the Clean Water Act, states may request EPA to establish vessel sewage no-discharge zones if necessary to protect and restore water quality. In 2006, following passage of three state statutes designed to reduce the effects of vessel discharges to its waters, the State of California asked EPA to establish the sewage discharge ban.
“This is a winner all around,†said State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), who authored the California law prohibiting coastal dumping and petitioning the federal government for EPA authorization. “The Environmental Protection Agency’s ‘No Discharge Zone’ protects our coastal economy, our environment and our public health.â€
The proposed prohibition is unprecedented in geographical scope. In contrast to prior no-discharge zones under the Clean Water Act, which apply in very small areas, the new ban will apply to all coastal waters out to 3 miles from the coastline and all bays and estuaries subject to tidal influence. There are 9 small no-discharge zones currently designated in California, which include the national marine sanctuaries.
California’s coastal waters are home to a wide variety of unique, nationally important marine environments that support rich biological communities and a wide range of recreational and commercial activities. Four national marine sanctuaries, a national monument, portions of six national parks and recreation areas, and more than 200 other marine reserves and protected areas have been established to protect California’s unique marine resources.
Recreational and commercial uses of California’s coastal waters are equally important. Seventy-seven percent of the State’s population lives on or near the coast and annually, over 150 million visitor-days are spent at California beaches. California ranks first in the nation as a travel destination and its beaches are the leading draw for tourists. California’s commercial fishing industry also relies upon clean water to help preserve and restore coastal fisheries.
Consistent with the State’s request, today’s proposed prohibition will apply to all passenger ships larger than 300 tons and to all other oceangoing vessels larger than 300 tons that have sufficient sewage holding tank capacity. Other vessel sewage discharges will continue to be regulated under existing Clean Water Act requirements, which generally require sewage to be treated by approved marine sanitation devices prior to discharge. The State is also continuing to implement and strengthen other efforts to address sewage discharges from smaller vessels, including recreational boats, to state waters. EPA is inviting public comment for 60 days on the proposed discharge prohibition.
For more information on the proposed large vessel sewage discharge prohibition in California, existing no-discharge zones in California, and the Clean Water Act program to address vessel discharges, please visit EPA’s website at:
http://www.epa.gov/region9/water/no-discharge/overview.html and http://www.epa.gov/owow/oceans/regulatory/vesseldisch.html
By Professional Mariner Staff