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California sewage ban approved by EPA

EPA estimates that the rule will prohibit the discharge of over 22 million gallons or about 90% of treated vessel sewage currently generated by large vessels in California marine waters each year


Western Farm Press
02/09/2012

U.S. EPA’s Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld will sign a rule that will finalize EPA’s decision and approve a state proposal to ban all sewage discharges from large cruise ships and most other large ocean-going ships to state marine waters along California’s 1,624 mile coast from Mexico to Oregon and surrounding major islands. The action establishes a new federal regulation banning even treated sewage from being discharged in California’s marine waters.

"This is an important step to protect California's coastline. I want to commend the shipping industry, environmental groups and U.S. EPA for working with California to craft a common sense approach to keeping our coastal waters clean." said Gov. Jerry Brown.

"By approving California's 'No Discharge Zone,' EPA will prohibit more than 20 million gallons of vessel sewage from entering the state's coastal waters," said Jared Blumenfeld. "Not only will this rule help protect important marine species, it also benefits the fishing industry, marine habitats and the millions of residents and tourists who visit California beaches each year."

This action strengthens protection of California’s coastal waters from the adverse effects of sewage discharges from a growing number of large vessels. Several dozen cruise ships make multiple California port calls each year while nearly 2,000 cargo ships made over 9,000 California port calls in 2010 alone. EPA estimates that the rule will prohibit the discharge of over 22 million of the 25 million gallons of treated vessel sewage generated by large vessels in California marine waters each year, which could greatly reduce the contribution of pollutants still found in treated vessel sewage.

State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) authored Senate Bill 771, the Clean Coast Act which prohibits all commercial ships from dumping hazardous waste, sewage sludge, oily bilge water, “gray water” from sinks and showers, and sewage in state waters. Simitian’s SB 771 also required California to petition the federal government for a ‘No Discharge Zone’ to enforce the bill’s anti-dumping provisions.

“This is a great day for the California coast, which is far too precious a resource to be used as a dumping ground,” said Simitian. “This ‘No Discharge Zone’ – the largest in the nation – protects our coastal economy, our environment and our public health.”

"California's coastal waters will no longer serve as a sewage pond for big ships," said Cal/EPA Secretary Matthew Rodriquez. "For too long, pollution from these vessels has endangered our marine environment, jeopardized public health and threatened the coastal communities that rely on recreation and tourism dollars. I commend U.S. EPA for helping us ensure that our coastline remains pristine."

California’s coastal waters are home to a wide variety of unique, nationally important marine environments that support rich biological communities and a wide range of recreational and commercial activities. Four national marine sanctuaries, a national monument, portions of six national parks and recreation areas, and more than 200 other marine reserves and protected areas have been established to protect California’s unique marine resources. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has already implemented similar vessel sewage discharge bans in the four California marine sanctuaries that it oversees. Recreational and commercial uses of California’s coastal waters are equally important. Seventy-seven percent of the State’s population lives on or near the coast and annually, over 150 million visitor-days are spent at California beaches. California ranks first in the nation as a travel destination and its beaches are the leading destination for tourists. California’s commercial fishing industry also relies upon clean water to help preserve and restore coastal fisheries.

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