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Judge Orders State to Regulate Ballast Water

April 24, 2008

St. Paul, MN – Keep the invaders out! That's the order from a Minnesota district court judge to the state Pollution Control Agency about ballast water from ships coming into Lake Superior. The court told the state to start regulating discharges to prevent non-native species from reaching the Twin Ports of Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin.

Janette Brimmer, who argued the lawsuit, explains that the invaders, such as zebra mussels and viruses that infect fish, are a huge problem.

"Invasive species, like the fish virus, can impact the fisheries. We can have massive die-offs of the types of fish that the sport fishing industry has built up, or those that the commercial fishing industry depends on. Things like zebra mussels can have a financial impact because water intakes get plugged up and destroyed. And you can certainly have health impacts from some of these as well."

Ballast water is extra water stored on a ship not carrying cargo to help maintain the vessel's balance and is usually discharged before the ship reaches port.

The fish virus has infected almost thirty freshwater species found in the Great Lakes, including northern pike, walleye, trout and salmon.

Brimmer argued that there are additional economic and health costs from clogged water intakes for industrial, private and municipal systems.

Judge Kathleen Gearin's ruling noted that the Pollution Control Agency hasn't handled the issue with the urgency it merits.

Brimmer calls the court ruling an important decision.

"It wasn't clear that the state had this responsibility, particularly for stopping degradation of the waters and really imposing standards on the shipping industry. Now we have a clear statement, so we know that the deadline is firm. We know that this is actually going to happen."

Under the judge's ruling, by October all ships carrying ballast water in Minnesota waters must have Clean Water Act permits before discharging any of that ballast.

The decision can be viewed online at www.mncenter.org.

Jim Wishner/Eric Mack, Public News Service - MN