Friday, September 26, 2008

Public Comment Needed on the Ferry Fouling Our Waters

EPA Establishing Regulations for Vessel Discharge - Public Comments Needed

By Keri Christ

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of establishing regulations for waste discharges from marine vessels, including large ferries. This is significant because Cross Sound Ferry (CSF) has been operating in and discharging effluent into the waters off our coasts for over 30 years and is subject to these regulations.

It is imperative that comments be submitted by North Fork residents and environmental organizations as soon as possible. Although the comment period closed on August 1, 2008, this week I spoke with Ryan Albert at the EPA, who agreed to accept and read my late comments. He advised that although EPA will not formally respond to our comments, he will read them and we still have the chance to affect management decisions.

Here is how to submit comments:

1. Make sure comments include the following identification:
Docket ID No. EPA HQ OWN 2008 0055 for the VIPS

2. Go to http://www.regulationsgov/ and follow the on-line
instructions for submitting comments.

3. In addition, email your comments to Ryan Albert (202.564.0763)at . Ryan Albert, EPA Headquarters, Office of Water, Office of Wastewater Management, Mail Code 4203M, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW., Washington, DC 20460


In June 2008, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the decision in a lawsuit initiated by Northwest Environmental Advocates which revoked a 30-year year exemption of "incidental discharges from vessels" from NPDES (National Pollution Discharge Elimination Permits) required under the Clean Water Act. In July, following on the heels of the court's decision, two pieces of legislation were quickly passed exempting vessels less than 79 feet in length and recreational vessels. However, vessels greater than or equal to 79 feet are subject to the regulations. All eight of CSF vessels are larger than 79 feet in length and are covered by the regulations. CSF also owns tugs that will be covered.

In July, EPA issued a "proposed vessel general permit" and solicited public comments which were to be submitted by August 1, 2008. A public hearing was also held in Washington DC.

The EPA has published a Factsheet about the permit.

Those interested in submitting comments should review the comments made by Northwest Environmental Advocates, as well those submitted by the New York State Department of Environmental Protection (NYSDEC) and perhaps most importantly, those submitted by Cross Sound Ferry principles John Wronowski and Adam Wronowski.

The EPA has identified 28 different kinds of discharges that are to be regulated. As of the new deadline December 19, 2008, CSF will be required to obtain NPDES vessel general permits from EPA for these discharges and limit and report them pursuant to EPA regulations. They will also be required to educate crew members and the public about discharges as the regulations stand now.

I have not yet completed review of all of the documents/pertinent comments, but here are some thoughts on the points which need to be raised:

· Why weren’t the Orient State Park National Natural Monument and the Long Island Sound and Peconic Estuary which are presumably "federally protected in whole or in part for conservation purposes" included in Section 12 of the proposed general permit?

According to Ryan Albert, the EPA's contractor consulted lists of protected areas, but some may have been overlooked and only those areas which are well-defined were included.

We should urge the EPA to include the Long Island Sound and Peconic Estuary as well as Orient's national natural landmark in the Part 12 lists. We will have to submit implementing legislation/designation information to demonstrate federal protection of our waters and national natural landmark (NNL). I have the NNL designation information and will request this in my comments.

Mr. John Wronowski’s comments claim no environmental benefits to be gained and it is impossible for CSF vessels to acquire invasive species because they "operate in interconnected Lakes, Bays and Sounds", and do not operate in any waters included in Part 12, re: underwater ship husbandry.

· Support arguments and facts in the Northwest Environmental Advocates comments about large ferries; for the need for technology and water quality-based effluent limits, and more specific information regarding fleet vessels regulated under the permit -e.g. age, existing methods for handling waste etc., support large ferry oily water separators, same requirements re: gray water for ferries as for cruise ships, reporting of estimated volumes of gray water etc.

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