Friday, February 10, 2012

EPA Approves Largest Coastal No-Discharge Zone in History

Cruise ships have been in the news a lot lately with the horrific disaster in Italy. More news effecting this industry was made yesterday, but this time, the story results in positive environmental benefits to the California coast. Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA’s Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator signed a rule that will finalize EPA’s decision to approve a state proposal to ban all sewage discharges from large cruise ships and most other large ocean-going ships to state marine waters along California’s 1,624 mile coast from Mexico to Oregon and surrounding major islands. Today’s action establishes a new federal regulation banning even treated sewage from being discharged in California’s marine waters. "This is an important step to protect California's coastline. I want to commend the shipping industry, environmental groups and U.S. EPA for working with California to craft a common sense approach to keeping our coastal waters clean." said Gov. Jerry Brown.
"By approving California's 'No Discharge Zone,' EPA will prohibit more than 20 million gallons of vessel sewage from entering the state's coastal waters," said Jared Blumenfeld. "Not only will this rule help protect important marine species, it also benefits the fishing industry, marine habitats and the millions of residents and tourists who visit California beaches each year."

This rule will have significant impact, especially when considering that several dozen cruise ships make multiple California port calls each year while nearly 2,000 cargo ships made over 9,000 California port calls in 2010 alone. EPA estimates that the rule will prohibit the discharge of over 22 million of the 25 million gallons of treated vessel sewage generated by large vessels in California marine waters each year, which could greatly reduce the contribution of pollutants still found in treated vessel sewage.

"California's coastal waters will no longer serve as a sewage pond for big ships," said Cal/EPA Secretary Matthew Rodriquez. "For too long, pollution from these vessels has endangered our marine environment, jeopardized public health and threatened the coastal communities that rely on recreation and tourism dollars. I commend U.S. EPA for helping us ensure that our coastline remains pristine."

The new rule is the largest in history in terms of geographical scope. In contrast to prior no-discharge zones under the Clean Water Act, which have applied to very small areas, the new ban applies to all coastal waters out to 3 miles from the coastline and all bays and estuaries subject to tidal influence. Other California no discharge zones for ten bays and marinas remain in effect for all vessels.

“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 and vessels project director at Friends of the Earth. “The actions taken today by the 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.”

For more information on the rule, click here.

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