Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wisconsin Ballast Water Discharge Permit Environmental Assessment

The Wisconsin DNR (WDNR) has recently completed its environmental assessment for the proposed issuance of a general permit to regulate the discharge of ballast water from ships into the waters of the State. This assessment, completed to comply with the Wisconsin Environmental Policy Act (WEPA) clears the way for WDNR to issue its final discharge permit.

On February 23, 2009, the WDNR public noticed a general permit for commercial vessels which includes effluent discharge standards for ballast water. This permit also included an aggressive compliance schedule for implementation. The permit specifies biological effluent discharge standards and biocide effluent limits that, based upon best professional judgment, represent the best practicable technology currently available pursuant to § NR 220.21, Wis. Adm. Code. WDNR believes a permit for regulating ballast water beyond what EPA has developed is necessary to prevent the release of additional aquatic invasive species (AIS) and protect water quality standards in Wisconsin. The 2010-11 biennial budget bill signed by Governor Doyle in July 2009 provided for statutory authority to establish a discharge performance standard for ballast water.

Wisconsin’s General Permit will require discharges of ballast water to meet numeric technology based effluent limits based upon the number of living organisms in the discharge by 2014 for all existing ocean-going ships. Vessels constructed on or after January 1, 2012 would have to meet these requirements prior to operation. The permit is intended to minimize the further release of aquatic invasive species. The general permit requires all ocean-going vessels to meet discharge standards set at 100 times more stringent than the IMO standards. This discharge standard is similar to that adopted by New York in its § 401 Water Quality Certification. Plans and specifications of the treatment systems would require approval by the Department, to confirm the treatment has been approved by the USCG or an equivalent approval process, is effective and would comply with the discharge standards.

There is an exemption in this permit when ballast water is pumped from a vessel off-ship for treatment on another vessel or to a ballast water treatment system on-shore. Additionally, the permit allows for an alternative discharge limit, if the technology is not available to meet the discharge standards by December 31, 2011.

The federal general permit (VGP), effective December 19, 2008, that applies to all discharges incidental to the normal operation of a vessel1 includes a technology based standard for all ocean-going vessels. This standard has been required by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) for all vessels that enter the St. Lawrence Seaway since March 2008 and has proven ineffective as the introduction of aquatic invasive species has continued. On August 28, 2009, the USCG published in the federal register a new proposed ballast water discharge standard rule which requires a phased approach to ballast water discharge standards, with IMO being required in phase-one, and up to 1000 times IMO standards in phase-two. WDNR general permit contains technology based effluent limitations that represent the best practicable control technology currently available.

Caltha LLP provides expert consulting services to public and private sector clients nationwide to address water quality standards, wastewater permitting and assessing potential impacts of chemicals in the aquatic environment.

Caltha LLP Aquatic Toxicology / WQ Standards Services Website

Monday, December 7, 2009

EPA OW - OPP Pesticide Assessment Methods Meetings

EPA Office of Water (OW) and Office of Pesticide Programs(OPP) have identified a need to harmonize methods used by the Offices to determine whether pesticides represent a concern for aquatic life. To address these concerns, the Agency has begun a process to explore how to build on the high quality science in both OW and OPP to develop additional tools and approaches to support a consistent and common set of effects characterization methods using best available information.

A number of regional public meetings are being planned between January 11 and 22, 2010 to solicit input on the Agency's initial thinking regarding methods, tools, and approaches that are being developed and evaluated by OPP and OW to assure that pesticide ecological effects are characterized consistently. The areas for consideration under this effort include:

  • Development and evaluation of predictive tools for use in development of community level benchmarks;
  • Development of aquatic life community level benchmarks with datasets that do not conform to the "1985 Guidelines'' used to derive water quality criteria;
  • Derivation of aquatic life screening values for aquatic plants

In selecting and/or developing appropriate methodogies, EPA OW and OPP expects to consider the following criteria:

  • Continue to be based upon sound science and utilize the available data,
  • Be legally defensible under their respective statutory mandates,
  • Be based upon methodologies that are as consistent and practical as possible,
  • Be implementable at the Federal and State level.
  • Be developed as quickly and efficiently as possible, and
  • Reflect stakeholder input and comments.

During these meetings, EPA will also solicit input from Regional stakeholders regarding 1)additional sources of pesticide data and relevant reports, 2)white paper topics, 3) availability of data, tools, approaches, and data sets on aquatic toxicity that may be useful for this effort, 4)types of values that are used by states and/or regions for protecting aquatic life in the absence of ambient water quality criteria, and 5) examples of situations in which differences between OW and OPP assessment approaches were an issue.

Following these meetings, the Agency plans to develop a set of white papers, describing potential new tools and analytical approaches that may be used by the Agency, state pesticide and water quality agencies, and other stakeholders.

Caltha LLP provides expert consulting services to public and private sector clients nationwide to address water quality standards, wastewater permitting and assessing potential impacts of chemicals in the aquatic environment.

Caltha LLP Aquatic Toxicology / WQ Standards Services Website