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Program Development

Picture from Inside VesselMarch 28, 2013, EPA issued a new VGP that will take effective on December 19, 2013 when the current permit expires.

Studies to Improve Our Understanding of Ballast Water Discharges

In order to better inform EPA's understanding of ballast water discharges, the Agency jointly commissioned two scientific studies with the United States Coast Guard (USCG).

The first study was led by the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council (NAS). As background for that study, EPA and United States Geological Survey (USGS) researchers prepared a background paper titled Density Matters (PDF) (131 pp, 1.29MB) for the NAS committee's use. EPA and the USCG requested the study to inform their efforts to derive environmentally protective numeric ballast water discharge limits under their respective regulatory programs. The report recommends, as a first step, that a benchmark discharge standard should be established that clearly reduce concentrations of coastal organisms below current levels. In the report, the NAS has also identified the strengths and weaknesses of existing approaches to evaluating risk from ballast water discharges and made recommendations on how to improve our future scientific understanding of this risk. To view a copy of the report, please visit the NAS website at  Exit EPA Site or click here (PDF) (135 pp, 2.46MB).

The second study was led by EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB).  This study evaluated the status of ballast water treatment technologies.  As part of this study, EPA and USCG staff prepared a white paper (PDF) (77 pp, 1.03MB) presenting key issues and background regarding ballast water treatment technology.  On July 12,2011, the chartered SAB committee released the final SAB report titled Efficacy of Ballast Water Treamtent Systems: a Report by the EPA Science Advisory Board (PDF) (154 pp, 1.26MB). The SAB found that systems currently exist to meet the International Maritime Organization (IMO) standard, and some of those systems may achieve a limit 10 times the IMO standard. However, due to the detection limitations of current monitoring technology and approaches, the SAB could not definitively determine whether systems could meet this more stringent limit. The SAB also found it unlikely that treatment systems, which attain a limit of 100 times or 1000 times more stringent than IMO standards, exist today. Documents made available to the board can be found by going to  Exit EPA Site and searching for docket number EPA-HQ-OW-2010-0582. EPA's response to this study is attached here (PDF) (4 pp, 183KB).

Information from both the NAS and SAB reports will be considered by EPA in developing appropriate ballast water limits in the next Vessel General Permit (VGP).

Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) Protocol for Ballast Water Treatment Technology

EPA recently finalized new ETV protocols for sampling ballast water discharges from land based testing facilities titled Generic Protocol for the Verification of Ballast Water Treatment Technology. The ETV program verifies the performance of innovative technologies that have the potential to improve protection of human health and the environment.This protocol was developed under a collaboration between EPA and the United States Coast Guard (USCG).

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Last updated on March 28, 2013 1:27 PM