ballast water

NorthAmericanFishing / YouTube

The National Wildlife Federation is suing the EPA over the agency's ballast water rules. The group says the rules are not stringent enough to stop invasive species from getting into U.S. waterways from ballast water discharges.

Invasive species found throughout the Great Lakes, such as quagga mussels, zebra mussels, round gobies, and spiny water fleas, most likely hitchhiked their way here in ballast water.

Here's how:

More on the NWF's lawsuit from the Duluth News Tribune:

The EPA in April announced its ballast water regulations after years of delays and actions by environmental groups to force the issue. But the National Wildlife Federation says the rules don’t go far enough to keep invasives out of U.S. waters, including the Great Lakes.

“The EPA’s permit will not adequately protect the Great Lakes and other U.S. waters from ballast water invaders. This weak permit leaves the door open for future harm to our environment and economy,” Marc Smith, senior policy manager for the group, said in announcing the suit. “We can do better — and need to do better — if we are to protect our fish and wildlife and their habitat for future generations.”

Photo courtesy of the Great Lakes NOBOB Team

Ships entering the Great Lakes can carry water from foreign ports. That water is held in their ballast tanks. It helps stabilize the ship.

Now, anytime you hear the term ballast water... do your eyes glaze over? Maybe you start thinking about what you’re going to make for dinner? Okay, so it’s not the sexiest topic. But it matters because sneaky little invasive species can hide in the ballast water... and catch a ride across the ocean.

“Invasive species, scientists think, are the worst problem facing the Great Lakes. They threaten the Great Lakes health, they threaten to crash the ecosystem, they threaten our economy.”

That’s Andy Buchsbaum. He directs the Great Lakes office of the National Wildlife Federation. He says when ships dump their ballast water in the Great Lakes, the invaders can get out.

“And if they find each other and fall in love, you have families of those critters and you actually have some real population problems like zebra mussels going wild in the Great Lakes.”

Zebra mussels have caused all kinds of havoc with Great Lakes ecosystems. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 30 percent of the invasive species in the Great Lakes have come in through ballast water.

Jim Bahn / Flickr

The Associated Press Reports: New York State will not be imposing stricter regulations on ships potentially carrying invasive species into the Great Lakes.

In the past, ships carrying ballast water for stability have brought invasive species including quagga mussels, spiny water fleas and round gobys to the Great Lakes from Europe.

New York State controls access to the St. Lawrence Waterway, which is the gateway to the Great Lakes.

David Sommerstein / The Environment Report

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Environmental groups say they may renew a legal battle if the federal government doesn't toughen proposed regulations of ship ballast water that has brought invasive species such as zebra mussels to the Great Lakes.

Groups have gone to court twice to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to crack down on ballast water disposal. The agency now requires ships to exchange the water at sea. In November, EPA proposed requiring vessels to install equipment that would kill at least some organisms remaining in the tanks.

The rule is based on an international standard that shippers say is the best they can do with existing technology.

But environmental groups said Tuesday the rules aren't strong enough to prevent more species invasions and they may sue again unless EPA toughens them.

The U.S. House has approved a bill that would set a national policy for cleansing ship ballast water to kill invasive species while prohibiting states from imposing tougher requirements.

The measure that passed the Republican-controlled chamber Tuesday would adopt an international standard limiting the number of live organisms in ballast water. Vessel operators would have to install technology to comply.

The shipping industry says an existing patchwork of more than two dozen state and tribal policies is unworkable because vessels move constantly from one jurisdiction to another. New York rules scheduled to take effect in 2013 would be 100 times tougher than the House standards.

Environmentalists say the House measure isn't strong enough to prevent more invasive species from reaching the Great Lakes. They say they hope to derail it in the Democratic-controlled Senate.