EPA proposes commercial discharge permits

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued two draft vessel general permits that would regulate discharges from commercial vessels, excluding military and recreational vessels.

The proposed permits would help protect the nation’s waters from ship-borne pollutants and reduce the risk of introduction of invasive species from ballast water discharges, according to the agency.

The draft Vessel General Permit, which covers commercial vessels greater than 79 feet in length, would replace the current 2008 Vessel General Permit, when it expires in December 2013. The new draft Small Vessel General Permit would cover vessels smaller than 79 feet in length and would provide such vessels with the Clean Water Act permit coverage they will be required to have as of December 2013.

The EPA intends to issue the final permits in November 2012, a full year in advance, to allow vessel owners and operators time to prepare for new permit requirements.

The updated permit would reduce the administrative burden for vessel owners and operators. It would continue to regulate the 26 specific discharge categories that were contained in the 2008 permit and, for the first time, manage the discharge of fish hold effluent.

A key new provision of the permit is a proposed numeric standard to control the release of non-indigenous invasive species in ballast water discharges.

The Small Vessel General Permit would be the first under the Clean Water Act to address discharges incidental to the normal operation of commercial vessels less than 79 feet in length.

The draft permit specifies best management practices for several broad discharge management categories including fuel management, engine and oil control, solid and liquid maintenance, graywater management, fish hold effluent management and ballast water management.


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