Keeping it Clean
Coast Guard inspection, prevention, mitigation
efforts help protect Great Lakes waters
By JOHN C. MARCARIO, Associate Editor
Since 2006, ballast water management requirements in the Great
Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway
System have been the most stringent in the world.
“It’s more of a high interest
because it’s fresh water” and provides drinking water to tens of millions of people in the United States
and Canada, said Scott Binko, an
environmental protection specialist with the district.
The Coast Guard, in conjunction with local and Canadian partners, helps produce a yearly Great
“Independent research by the Fisheries and Oceans
Canada (Science) indicates that the risk of a ballast
water mediated introduction of aquatic invasive species
into the Great Lakes has been mitigated to extremely
low levels,” the 2012 report concluded.
The lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway, although different
in nature, must be treated as a single system for any regulatory regime system to be effective, the Coast Guard said.
“The only way to ensure consistent ballast discharge
regulations across the Great Lakes Seaway System is to
have strong federally mandated standards managed by
unified federal agency coordination between Canada and
the U.S. in partnership and consultation with the states
and provinces,” according to the report.
Among the key missions for the Coast Guard’s Ninth District is
helping ensure water quality and preventing damage to the
ecosystem within the Great Lakes basin.
■ Ballast water management requirements in the Great Lakes and
St. Lawrence Seaway System are the most stringent in the world.
■ The Coast Guard, in conjunction with local and Canadian partners, helps develop a yearly Great Lakes Ballast Management
report to enhance and coordinate bi-national compliance and
enforcement efforts to reduce the introduction of aquatic invasive species via ballast water and residuals.
■ There were 375 oil spills in the lakes in 2012, most involving
recreational boats as a result of Superstorm Sandy.
With 21 percent of the world’s fresh water sup- ply within its jurisdiction, water quality and preventing damage to the ecosystem within
the Great Lakes basin is an important job for the Coast
Guard’s Ninth District.
As part of that effort, the Coast Guard monitors the
five lakes through a rigorous set of ballast water tests by
which boaters and commercial shippers must abide.
Ballast water is defined as fresh or salt water held in
tanks and cargo holds of ships to increase stability and
maneuverability during transit. It can contain sediment,
impurities or other contaminants that can endanger the
water system if released into the lakes.
According to the service, 100 percent of vessels
bound for the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway
from outside the Exclusive Economic Zone — waters
three to 200 miles offshore — received ballast management exams on each seaway transit last year. All
6,974 ballast tanks, during 386 vessel transits, were
assessed. That percentage has remained steady for the
past four years.