Thursday, August 26, 2010

Feds Move for 3-Mile California Coastal Ban on Vessel Sewage Dumping

Federal environmental regulators on Wednesday announced a new rule, that if approved, will prohibit cargo and cruise vessels from dumping sewage within three miles of California's coastline.

Under the proposed United States Environmental Protection Agency rule, vessels of greater than 300 tons would be prohibited from releasing treated or untreated sewage within three miles of the state's coast and within state inland waterways.

Currently, under California state law, vessels can discharge treated sewage as needed if the holding capacity of the vessel's on-board sewage holding system has been reached.

Part of the need for the new rules stems from the lack of a cohesive state regulatory scheme covering near-shore dumping.

Under the federal Clean Water Act, states may request the EPA to establish vessel sewage no-discharge zones if necessary to protect and restore water quality. In 2006, following passage of three state statutes designed to reduce the effects of vessel discharges to its waters, the State of California asked the EPA to establish the sewage discharge ban.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the new rule, which could take effect as early as Jan. 1, 2011, could prevent up to 20 million gallons of sewage per year from being released along the California coast. According to the EPA, the new rule would create the largest "No Discharge Zone" in the U.S. Enforcement of the new rule will fall to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The proposed rule will now face a 60-day public review period.