State officials have signed a settlement agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to better regulate ballast water from commercial vessels.
Although the EPA issued its first “Vessel General Permit” (VGP) in 2009 to help regulate invasive species transported in ballast water, Michigan — along with other Great Lakes states and environmental organizations — felt it was inadequate to protect the Great Lakes, as the EPA only required ships to use the antiquated “swish and spit” saltwater flushing process as opposed to more modern ballast water treatment technologies.
“The Great Lakes define the state of Michigan,” said Gov. Rick Snyder in press release. “But our waters are now home to more than 180 aquatic invaders, introduced and spread by unregulated ballast water. I urge the EPA to move swiftly on plans to offer a long-term protection strategy for the Great Lakes.”
Some of the invasive species introduced through ballast water include the round goby, spiny water flea, ruffe, and zebra mussel, among many others. Millions of dollars have been spent in attempts to curb the ecological and commercial damage these invasive species can wreak on native species and the environment.
The current settlement agreement outlines a process for the EPA to establish common protective standards for ballast water discharges in U.S. waters. A few key measures include facilitating regional communication for ballast water regulation, arranging for scientific reports to speed up the time line for the next VGP issuance, and providing information on the development of the next VGP requirements.
The EPA’s current VGP expires on Dec. 19, 2013, but the current settlement calls for the EPA to draft the next VGP by Nov. 30, 2011, with a new final VGP due by Nov. 30, 2012.