The Coast Guard last week issued an interim rule and request for public comments regarding the dumping of cargo residue by freighters overboard into the Great Lakes. Under the interim rule, the Coast Guard is allowing the pollution dumping to continue, but prohibiting dumping in protected areas and requiring shippers to record and report their dumping. Coast Guard policy has allowed ships to dump potentially harmful dry cargo residues into the Great Lakes and much of the St. Lawrence River Basin for decades. Ships dump over one million pounds of waste material – including coal, limestone, iron ore and taconite – into the lakes in a single shipping season. The environmental effects of cargo dumping are largely unknown, and the practice violates international agreements against dumping waste from ships.
The public has until January 15, 2009 to submit comments to the Coast Guard on the need for additional restrictions on future dumping of dry cargo residue. Such restrictions could include the mandatory use of control measures or further changes to where dumping is prohibited and allowed. Lyman Welch, an attorney and Water Quality Program Manager for the Alliance for the Great Lakes, has taken the lead on this issue for the Great Lakes environmental community, and some of their concerns are outlined in a recent comment letter. Special thanks to Lyman for his help with this post.