MPCA seeking comments on ballast water permitting process

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is seeking public comment from now through Sept. 11 on its draft ballast water general permit. This state permit would continue the MPCA's regulatory role in helping protect Minnesota waters of Lake Superior from potential environmental and economic harm caused by aquatic invasive species carried in the ballast water of ships.

The draft five-year state permit would affect 55 to 65 U.S.-flagged lakers (a "laker" is a vessel that transits only the Great Lakes), 60 to 65 Canadian-flagged lakers, and 225 to 275 ocean-going ships that transit through, and discharge to, Minnesota waters of Lake Superior.

The MPCA's draft requirements focus on lakers' treatment systems that, when installed, will minimize the introduction of new or spread of aquatic invasive species and submission of a Ballast Water/Sediment Management Plan. Once a ship's plan is approved, the agency would issue a Notice of Coverage for the vessel.

MPCA staff began working on the ballast water discharge program in early 2007 and issued a permit in September 2008. International efforts on this issue, federal court decisions, new requirements contained in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency permit, new U.S. Coast Guard rules, and past state legislation helped shape the MPCA staff's permit-development efforts.

A copy of the draft permit, fact sheet, and public notice are available for review at the MPCA offices in St. Paul and Duluth and online on the MPCA's Public Notices webpage.

For more information, to request copies of the draft permit, fact sheet, and public notice, or to submit written comments until 4:30 p.m. Sept. 11, contact Beth Gawrys, MPCA Industrial Division, 520 Lafayette Road N., St. Paul MN 55155-4194; fax 651-296-8717; or email Elizabeth.gawrys@state.mn.us.