Federal Court Order Backs Pennsylvania DEP Efforts to Control Invasive Species In Ballast Water
Written by Pr Newswire   
Monday, 04 April 2005 12:52
Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty today announced that a federal court has sided with Pennsylvania and the six other Great Lakes states in striking down a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation that failed to control the discharge of ballast water from oceangoing vessels.

?Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin filed an amicus brief in July 2004 to support a lawsuit that challenged EPA's exemption of ballast water from federal Clean Water Act rules. In its ruling Friday, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ordered EPA to repeal its ballast-water exemption.

"This is a tremendous victory for the economic and environmental health of the Great Lakes ecosystem," Secretary McGinty said.

The vast majority of vessels on the Great Lakes do nothing to inactivate or kill foreign invaders in their ballast water and EPA has set no limits on ballast water discharges. The states backed a lawsuit brought by groups opposing EPA's exemption and petitioned the federal government for stronger action to combat the environmental and economic consequences that harmful invasive species can cause.

Many of these invasive species pose serious threats because of their potential to foul industrial facilities and plug public water supply intakes that draw from infested waters. Invasive species even can interfere with the operation of locks and dams on rivers, or damage boat hulls and engines. Without natural predators, exotic species can multiply at fantastic rates and overwhelm ecosystems, removing organisms from the food chain that native species depend on for survival.

Aquatic invasive species can damage and displace existing recreational fisheries in Lake Erie, a very real economic threat to Pennsylvania. A 2004 study by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission suggests that anglers attracted to the steelhead fishery in the northwestern part of the state spent nearly $9.5 million on trip-related expenditures in 2003. According to PFBC, this activity generates $5.71 million in new value-added activity in Erie County, supporting 219 jobs in the economy through direct and indirect effects.

Invasive species, such as zebra mussels, also present more and more major water pollution challenges throughout the country. The zebra mussel is native to the Caspian Sea in Eastern Europe. They were introduced to this country around 1985 when ocean-faring ships released infested ballast water into the lower Great Lakes and their biological activities of filtering and excretion have been identified as possible links to outbreaks of botulism and increased areas of hypoxia in Lake Erie.

DEP recently confirmed that zebra mussel adults and juveniles have been found in Goodyear Lake, the first major impoundment on the Susquehanna River's main stem below Canadarago Lake in New York. This poses a serious ecological

and economic threat to the water resources and water users downstream in the river and Chesapeake Bay.

Control and cleanup methods for zebra mussels are difficult, expensive and generally unsuccessful. The best control is to limit the spread of zebra mussels by cleaning boats and equipment before and after use.

Adult zebra mussels can be found in other Pennsylvania waters, including the Ohio River and lower portions of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers. Other occurrences of zebra mussels have been reported from northwestern Pennsylvania lakes such as Edinboro and Sandy lakes as well as upper French Creek in Crawford County.

 
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