Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Recently Implemented Clean Water Act Permit Requirements for Vessels

Process applies to any vessel over 300 GRT or having a ballast water capacity greater than 8 cubic meters (2,113 gallons). In order to qualify under the permit the only action the operator will need to take is to file a "Notice of Intent" by 19 September 2009 (but after 19 June 2009). This is an easy, 3 page form that can be filled out on an EPA web site and submitted. The permit only limits activities in "waters of the United States" (extending to the outer reach of the 3 mile territorial sea"). The permit does not "affect, supersede, or relieve any otherwise applicable requirements or prohibitions under other provisions of Federal law or regulations. Specifically:

1. A Ballast Water Management Plan
2. Garbage disposal (33 CFR Part 151, Subpart A)
3. Oil (MARPOL, etc.)

The permit will limit, within the 3 mile territorial sea (in addition to all the existing limits like oil, garbage, etc.) Deck Washdown and Runoff and Above Water Line Hull Cleaning "to minimize the introduction of on-deck debris, garbage, residue and spill," "presence of floating solids, visible foam, halogenated phenol compounds, and dispersants, or surfactants," "rust (and other corrosion by-products), cleaning compounds, paint chips, non-skid material fragments, and other materials associated with exterior topside surface preservations." "If deck wasdowns or above water line hull cleaning will result in a discharge, they must be conducted with non-toxic and phosphate cleaners and detergents."

Chain Locker Effluent

Firemain System discharges are allowed but limited to those where "the intake comes directly from the surrounding waters or potable water supplies and there are no additions to the discharge."

Graywater. "All vessel must minimize the discharge of graywater while in port," the introduction of kitchen oils must be minimized to the graywater system," Vessel owner/operators must use phosphate free and non-toxic soaps and detergents for any purpose if they will be discharged into waters subject to this permit."

Boat Engine Wet Exhaust "Vessels generating wet exhaust must be maintained in good order to decrease pollutant contributions to wet exhaust use low sulfur or alternative fuels to reduce the concentration of pollutants," "consider four stroke versus two stroke engines."

Sonar Dome Discharge. "The water inside the sonar dome shall not be discharged within waters subject to this permit for maintenance purposes."

Underwater Ship Husbandry Discharges. Bringing in the team of divers with power brushes is no longer acceptable hull cleaning should be done in drydock with adequate controls on the runoff water.

The General Permit
The general permit issued by EPA will apply to all covered vessels that discharge into waters of the United States, regardless of whether a state is authorized to implement other aspects of the NPDES permit program. The vessel discharges covered by the general permit are discharges excluded from NPDES permitting programs under 40 C.F.R. § 122.3 and, therefore, are not considered a part of any currently authorized state NPDES program. 40 C.F.R. § 123.1(i)(2). EPA has not yet outlined its plan for how states may obtain approval to implement NPDES permitting for vessel discharges within their jurisdictions.

Owners and operators of vessels that are greater than 300 tons or that have the capacity to hold or discharge more than eight cubic meters (2,113 gallons) of ballast water will be required to submit a notice of intent (NOI) form to receive permit coverage. However, the final permit is expected to provide a nine-month grace period in which to complete and submit the NOI. All other owners and operators will be automatically authorized by the general permit to discharge according to the permit requirements. The general permit addresses 28 potential vessel discharge streams, including ballast water, deck runoff, bilgewater discharge, and graywater discharge, by establishing effluent limits and best management practices (BMPs) to control the discharge. Discharges that are not covered by the general permit include garbage or trash, sewage, used or spent oil, and discharges of industrial materials such as solvents from drycleaning operations, medical waste, or photo processing effluent.

In addition to these standard or common requirements, the general permit outlines further requirements for eight specific classes of vessels, such as cruise ships, research vessels, large ferries, and barges. For example, the additional permitting requirements for barges include:

1) preventing contamination of condensation,
2) requiring barges to have spill rails and to plug scuppers, and
3) prohibiting a discharge with a visible oil sheen.

It also requires a visual inspection for a visual sheen every time water is pumped from below deck. Finally, the general permit will include requirements for routine inspections (once per week and a comprehensive annual inspection, etc.), monitoring (depending on discharge type), recordkeeping, documentation of inspections in a log book, etc.), and reporting (noncompliance reporting, one-time permit reporting, etc.).