Environment & Science

Federal officials will limit ballast water as pollution in ports

File photo: Quagga Mussels on a marina support structure/
File photo: Quagga Mussels on a marina support structure/
J.N. Stuart/Flickr (Creative Commons-licensed)

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Federal environmental officials will set new rules for ships that discharge ballast water in U.S. coastal areas.

The new rules come after conservation groups sued over ballast water. Ships leave ports in Asia with water loaded into ballast tanks for stability; they empty those tanks at sea – or in U.S. ports like San Pedro.

That ballast water carries fish, clams, shrimp and other organisms that can crowd out or wipe out native species. The Metropolitan Water District says one of those species, the quagga mussel, has invaded the Colorado River Aqueduct.

It’s spent millions to clean them out, but it’s become a never-ending job. The conservation groups say ballast water amounts to water pollution – which requires a federal response.

The settlement worked out with the federal government calls for the EPA to work up new ballast water regulations for vessels that travel from foreign ports into U.S. waters. The rules could be ready in two years.