U.S. Coast Guard adopts ballast water standards to combat invasive species

03-27-2012 // MacKenzie Burger - Michigan Live

This excerpt is from Michigan Live

The U.S. Coast Guard announced a final rule last Friday regarding ballast water treatment standards that require ships to use technology that minimizes the threat of invasive species.

"There is no person that lives in the Great Lakes that hasn't heard of zebra mussels," said Marc Smith, senior policy manager at the National Wildlife Federation. "Everyone understands the damage of invasive species, and the main culprit is on the ballast of ocean going ships — even the industry ackowledges there is a problem."

The standards adopt discharge limits proposed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 2004, which some conservationists argue are not strict enough to stop the influx of non-native species into the Great Lakes and other waterways.

"Until now, we did not have any standards for the allowable concentration of living organisms in ballast water," said Lorne Thomas, external affairs division for the U.S. Coast Guard 9th District. "We needed to get something out there, and we are taking baby steps to make sure vessels are in compliance with new changes and technology that is still effective."

Regulation requires that discharge from ballast tanks have no more than 10 living organisms per milliliter for organisms less than 50 micrometers and greater than or equal to 10 micrometers. Ten living organisms per cubic meter — or 264 gallons — is allowed for organisms greater than or equal to 50 micrometers.

Vessels are required to install water treatment systems — such as UV radiation, electrolysis, or centrifugation — following their first dry dock after 2014.

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