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Report to Congress

Report to Congress: Study of Discharges Incidental to Normal Operation of Commercial Fishing Vessels and Other Non-Recreational Vessels Less than 79 Feet

Picture of VesselThis study was conducted to meet the obligations of EPA under Public Law (P.L.) 110-299 (July 31, 2008). Read the Background page for more information about this law.

For this study, EPA sampled wastewater discharges and gathered shipboard process information from 61 vessels in 9 vessel classes. These classes included fishing vessels, tugboats, water taxis, tour boats, towing/salvage vessels, small research vessels, a fire boat, and a supply boat. EPA sampled more commercial fishing vessels than any other vessel class due to the large number of fishing vessels present in US waters. Vessels were sampled in 15 separate cities and towns in nine states across multiple geographic regions, including New England, the Mid-Atlantic, the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi River, and Alaska.

The report found that some vessel discharges from these study vessels may have the potential to impact the aquatic environment and/or human health. Using the results obtained in this study, EPA modeled a large, hypothetical harbor to evaluate how the nine vessel discharge types EPA sampled may impact water quality. Based on this evaluation, EPA determined that the incidental discharges from study vessels to a relatively large water body are not likely to solely cause an exceedance of any National Recommended Water Quality Criteria (NRWQC). This finding suggests that these discharges are unlikely to pose acute or chronic exceedances of the NRWQC across an entire large water body. However, since many of the pollutants present in the vessel discharges were at end-of-pipe concentrations that exceeded an NRWQC, there is the potential for these discharges to contribute a water quality impact on a more localized scale. The study results indicate that total arsenic and dissolved copper are the most significant water quality concerns for the study vessels as a whole, and that they are more likely than other pollutants to contribute to exceedances of water quality criteria. This is especially true if there are high concentrations of vessels in confined waters or other sources of pollutants to those waters or the receiving water already has high background concentrations.

EPA announced the availability of the draft report on March 8, 2010 in a Federal Register Notice (PDF) (3 pp, 144K) . The Agency accepted comments until April 7, 2010.  EPA considered all comments before finalizing the Report in August 2010.

Download the entire Report to Congress (PDF) (598 pp, 18MB)

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Last updated on April 18, 2012 2:01 PM