EPA Finalizes Ban on Ships Dumping Waste Off California's Coast

Published Feb 10, 2012 9:34 AM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has mandated a federal rule that will ban ships from flushing their sewage into the sea within 3 miles of California’s coast. This regulation was approved on Thursday, February 9, but will not go into effect until next month.

This new prohibition means that cargo and cruise ships may not release treated or untreated waste or gray water anywhere along the coast. This practice is thought to spread bacteria and disease in marine mammals, fish and people. It will create the nation’s largest coastal no-sewage zone, spanning the 1,624 mile coast from Mexico to Oregon 3 miles out into the ocean.

The guideline is expected to stop the dumping of 22.5 million gallons of ship waste annually in the area, most of which ends up in the San Francisco Bay. The EPA feels that it is now necessary to recognize the importance of our beaches, people and the iconic coastline.

The U.S. Coast Guard will have the final say in inspecting vessels to make sure they are following the rule, which again, will begin in March 2012. State regulators will also have the authority to enforce the rules, and the EPA can impose fines and penalties on any offenders. Regulators said they hope other states follow California's lead and implement ship-sewage bans. Regulations are already in the works in Hawaii, Puget Sound and in the Great Lakes.