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Land-based sewage discharges into the ocean are illegal. Soon that ban will apply to big ships, too, under new EPA rules being announced today.
Jared Blumenfeld, Regional Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was Environmental Director for the City and County of San Francisco before he was appointed his new job by the Obama administration last January. He would prefer that the ship sewage discharge ban reached at least twice as far offshore, but says three miles is all his agency can cover.
Even these new rules will only restrict about 4/5ths of the sewage discharges into the state’s bays and other coastal waters; most of the remaining 20% comes from smaller vessels not governed by the new rules. Blumenfeld would like to see an eventual system of controlled dockside flushes into regional treatment facilities, but acknowledges that’s little more than a vision right now.
While the new EPA rules are welcomed, some environmental groups are pushing for more stringent standards. There is also a separate move underway to impose a full ban on sewage discharges from all vessels on Tomales Bay.
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Far out in the oceans of the world, away from the continents and even shipping lanes, vast floating seas of plastic garbage form an intractable sort of water pollution, something the bay area’s Project Kaisei is working to combat.
The north Pacific gyre is 700 to 800 miles across, explains Mary Crowley, co-founder of Project Kaisei, but it is not a solid mass of garbage so much as a shallow stew of floating debris.
The north Pacific Gyre is believed to hold the largest plastic Vortex anywhere on Earth, but Crowley observes that there are numerous other gyres across the seas, and each of them have their own growing expanses of floating garbage.
Returning from the Pacific Gyre, the Kaisei sailed under the the Golden Gate Bridge on August 31st. Kaisei is a Japanese word meaning "Ocean Planet."
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