The exact mechanism of TMDL implementation is not known at this time. Stakeholders must guide the process to decide what monitoring methods to employ, what technologies and practices to implement, and what regulatory approach to utilize. To successfully implement controls on ballast water and hull fouling discharges, however, the next steps have been discussed above and are clear:
Named entities on permits: Ports, Marinas, Drydocks, and/or Shipping Companies
All parties agree about the urgency of controlling exotic species introductions. No parties presently have enough information to determine the best method for this control. Monitoring based on standardized protocols is needed to help us evaluate the best control methods. The best control methods need to be mandatory to effectively restrict exotic species introductions. Since 1990, voluntary guidelines have been in place, but have had no effect on the accelerating pace of exotic species introductions. Protection of the estuary’s beneficial uses from factors such as exotic species is within the authority and spirit of the Clean Water Act and the California Water Code. The regulatory mechanisms under these successful environmental laws provide enough flexibility to enable the most cost-effective management decisions, but enough authority to ensure that these decisions get made and implemented in a timely manner.
If certain regulatory barriers are removed at 40 CFR 122.3(a), the Clean Water Act’s NPDES permitting program could be applied to the ballast water and/or hull fouling discharges from ships. A diverse array of individuals and organizations are in favor of implementing the NPDES permit program due to its success in reducing pollutant discharges from cities and industries, and its associated proven enforcement mechanisms.
A successful model exists under the NPDES program that could be implemented based on the interaction of the state permitting authority (the Regional Board) and ports. In terms of the NPDES program, commercial ports are analogous to municipal sewage treatment plants, with shipping companies similar to industrial users of the municipal collection system. States and the EPA do not have the resources to permit every industry that discharges to a sanitary sewer, so the industrial pretreatment program was established and delegated to cities to implement. The cities remain responsible for the effluent that enters waters of the state, and design their industrial permitting programs to meet their “end-of-pipe” requirements. Some sanitation districts in California regulate over 500 industries under this program. The industrial pretreatment program has reduced industrial pollution of waters of this region by over 90% on a mass basis since its inception in 1983.
Hypothetically, if ports took responsibility for a centralized collection and treatment system for ballast water, one NPDES permit could be issued for such a facility and the port would tailor requirements for its shipping companies to meet its “end-of-pipe” requirements. These “end-of-pipe” requirements could be water quality-based (e.g., viable organisms per volume discharged) or treatment-based, as with drinking water requirements in our nation. Alternatively, if on-board treatment systems were implemented by shipping companies, an NPDES permit for the port could detail the port’s responsibilities to provide assurance to the Board that these treatment systems are operational and meeting treatment standards. In either scenario, the permit would function as a memorandum of understanding between the Regional Board and the port - a clear statement of the procedures and responsibilities of each entity, as well as what is expected of the myriad ships that enter and exit the ports daily. Presently, the second scenario is not authorized by existing law.
To address exotic species, we can look to successful regulatory and technical tools that exist in our regulation of sewage, industrial wastewater, and drinking water. As a result of these tools, pollution and water-borne disease have been significantly reduced in this nation. It is reasonable for us to explore the ability of these existing tools to stem the rising tide of “environmental pathogens” in our waters – it is consistent with their original intent.
Establish and maintain Stakeholder Forum to develop implementation plan and to track and review current and additional work.