Environmentalists: New EPA Ballast Program ‘Wimpy’


A new federal rule to regulate ballast water discharges from large Great Lakes ships is being criticized as “wimpy.”

The EPA’s general permit for commercial vessels comes about a year after a similar regulation from the Coast Guard. The EPA claims its plan will reduce the risk of introducing more invasive species to the Great Lakes, as well as cut the administrative burden for vessel owners and operators. But environmental groups characterize the new federal effort as weak to the point of “wimpy.” Mark Smith, of the National Wildlife Federation, says despite international ships needing to exchange ballast water in the ocean, harmful species could still ride into the Midwest near the bottom of ballast tanks: “So you could have viruses, you could have eggs and critters in mud or debris in the bottom of these tanks.”

Smith says the EPA regulation also fails to regulate ships that just stay within the Great Lakes. He says those vessels can spread invasive species to other Great Lakes harbors. The environmental groups say they aren’t sure if they will sue to block the new vessel permit, but may ask Congress to pass a stronger law.

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