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- Environmental Protection Agency Releases Proposed Permits for Discharges Incidental to the Normal Operation of Vessels
Environmental Protection Agency Releases Proposed Permits for Discharges Incidental to the Normal Operation of Vessels
On June 17, 2008, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) released for public review two proposed National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) general permits to cover discharges incidental to the normal operations of commercial and recreational vessels in response to the federal district court ruling in Northwest Environmental Advocates v. EPA, which requires EPA to have a NPDES permit program in effect by September 30, 2008. One permit applies to all commercial vessels and recreational vessels 79 feet or larger in length and the second applies to recreational vessels smaller than 79 feet. EPA estimates that 91,000 domestically flagged commercial vessels, approximately 8,000 foreign flagged vessels, and approximately 13 million recreational boats that operate in U.S. waters could be affected by these permits.
The draft permit for commercial and larger recreational vessels covers 27 discharges in addition to ballast water. Generally, the draft permit would require the use of best management practices and incorporates by reference existing requirements. For ballast water, vessels will be required to conduct salt water flushing and salt water exchange, but the permit would not require the installation of ballast water treatment technology. The permit also does not require the filing of monthly discharge monitoring reports as is typically required of NPDES sources but instead relies on visual inspections of the vessel and the maintenance of a log book and other records on a vessel for a three-year period. A one-time report would be required about three years from when the permit takes effect, which essentially requires “yes” and “no” boxes to be checked. The draft permit leaves open the possibility that it would be modified if new technologies become available or regulations take effect. The draft permit for the smaller recreational vessels is far more streamlined and covers potential sources of pollution such as fueling, trash management, deck and hull cleaning, and graywater discharges.
Written comments on the draft permits are due August 1, 2008. EPA will also hold public informational meetings on the draft permits on June 19 in Washington, D.C., June 24 in Portland, and June 26 in Chicago, and a webcast on July 2. The public hearing in which EPA will hear oral comments is scheduled for July 21 in Washington, DC. The two draft permits, fact sheets for each permit and the Federal Register notice announcing how to file comments is available at EPA’s website at http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/home.cfm?program_id=350.
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