WWEMA: Ballast Water Discharge Rules Fall Short

The Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA) is gravely concerned with the approach being taken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate ballast water discharges in its Draft National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) General Permits for Discharges Incidental to the Normal Operation of a Vessel and contended in its July 31 comments that such an approach will do little, if anything, to prevent further release of invasive species into the waters of the United States.

This proposed rule could potentially stifle the development of urgently needed ballast water treatment technologies that can effectively kill or remove aquatic nuisance species that have wreaked havoc on the U.S.'s ecology and economy.

The association urged the need for uniform, national standards for ballast water and a treatment system approval process.

For the better part of eight years, ballast water standards have been under development while some 4,000 invasive species are being carried in ballast tanks by ships entering U.S. waters every day, according to the World Wildlife Fund. In WWEMA's view, EPA is missing a critical opportunity by not issuing national numeric treatment standards for ballast water discharges, instead opting to only propose use of management practices by vessels for controlling the release of aquatic nuisance species from ballast water discharges. At a minimum, the United States should ratify the International Maritime Organization (IMO) convention and EPA should adopt the IMO ballast water management discharge performance standards as recently called for by the National Academy of Sciences.

Failure to ratify the IMO convention and adopt the IMO standard is also placing U.S. industry in an extremely uncompetitive situation with U.S. manufacturers of ballast water treatment technology having to petition other nations to represent them when applying for Type Approval. U.S. industry will suffer as foreign competition moves forward with their final approvals.

"Commercially available ballast water treatment technology exists and has been proven effective by many credible, independent organizations," said WWEMA Chair Tom Mills of Severn Trent Services. "Lloyd's Register published a report in 2007 describing more than 20 technologies that are in various stages of development, three of which have already received Type Approval. EPA's contention that it cannot issue numeric treatment standards because technology is not yet commercially available is baseless. The reason these technologies are not in ‘commercial' application is because there is no uniform, U.S. national standard requiring their use," Mills emphasized.

WWEMA urged EPA to accept its court-enforced responsibility to move forward with a rule that will make a difference; because as proposed, the rule only protects the invasive species, not U.S. waterways.

The association is a 100-year old national trade organization whose members represent the leading producers of products and technologies used in water supply and wastewater treatment applications by municipal and industrial clients worldwide.