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.