Container Ship Kayaks
By Tom Neale, 6/26/2008
Good Stuff but Neither is on a Container Ship
If certain people have their way, maybe the only thing you’ll be able to eat for breakfast on your boat is oatmeal. I eat the stuff every other day or so, and I’m told it’s good for me. But I eat it because my wife makes me, not because the EPA makes me. Once in a while, if I’m good and my cholesterol is down and if I’m going to be particularly active during the day, I get to eat eggs. Several times a year, I may even get bacon or Jimmy Dean Sausage. But if certain people have their way, I may have to eat all these treats raw.
When you cook most things, you leave a little grease. Hopefully none of us pour that grease down the sink drain on our boats (or anywhere else), but even though we pour it into a “proper container for proper disposal” and then wipe the pan with paper towels, (formerly trees) and then deposit them in a “proper container for proper disposal of paper towels,” there’s still going to be a little bit of grease on that pan and, unless we want to play around with a good dose of salmonella or the like, we’ve got to wash it. But there’s a Judge in California who’s telling you, in essence, that you can’t really wash it. Or do a lot of other things, many of which happen naturally on your boat.
Why? Because huge cargo ships from all over the world have, we’re told, added various forms of pollution and unwanted wildlife to US waters, notably from their ballast tanks. Yes, that’s a serious problem and must be stopped. But, excuse me? What’s the connection? Well, I’m not sure I know, but that California Judge must think he knows, and he’s ordered the EPA to do something about it—not just in California but from “sea to shining sea.”
The problem is that he didn’t just order the EPA to do something about huge ballast carrying cargo ships—which is what the issue is all about. He ordered them to include recreational vessels in the rule making. He ordered the EPA to make sweeping new regulations that would mandate permitting (yes, another permit) of even recreational boats to control everything but spitting overboard. And actually, if you’ve just eaten some bacon, you might not even be able to spit. Interestingly, when the ruling came out, various EPA folks said that they didn’t want this and that it wasn’t helpful. That court order was appealed, but that’s been hanging around for a long time now. And the permits are supposed to be in place by September 30, 2008!
In the meantime the EPA has hastened to write the ordered regulations and they are now published, waiting for public comment. THIS MEANS YOU AND ME. You can read them by going to http://www.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/vessel_rec_permit.pdf . If you think you could live with this (and if you read the words carefully you probably won’t think this at all), you should also know that if this goes into effect, it will probably be just the beginning. In actuality, most of us, as boaters, have long been trying very hard to protect the environment. We use environmentally friendly soaps. We put oil absorbent material under our engines. We don’t dump things overboard. We do everything we can to avoid spilling fuel (are you kidding? I’d rather be throwing away hundred dollar bills.). But now they want to require us to have a permit (issued automatically at first) that supposedly requires all sorts of weird things. And if we don’t comply we’re in big trouble. (Like a penalty of $32,500 per day of violation.) Let’s take a look at a random sampling of some of the permit provisions.
Oils used during cooking must not be added to the graywater system or into any other discharge covered by this permit.
When cleaning hulls with toxic anti-fouling paint while the vessel is in the water, use only soft sponges. Cleaning must not cause a plume of paint. You must periodically examine the water during cleaning to assure that you are not causing a plume of paint to form. Stop immediately if any visible plume of paint appears in the water.
Purchase food in biodegradable containers using minimal packaging. (Uh, I guess this means I’d better check that box of cornflakes.)
Pack food in reusable containers to minimize waste. (Wait a minute. If it’s a reusable container, doesn’t that mean it’s probably NOT biodegradable???)
The vessel owner or operator shall allow EPA or an authorized representative to:
1. Inspect any vessel, equipment (including monitoring and control equipment), practices, or operations regulated or required under this permit; and
2. Sample or monitor, for the purpose of assuring permit compliance or as otherwise authorized by the Act, any substances or parameters at any location.
Authorized representatives include the U.S. Coast Guard, an authorized contractor acting as a representative of the Administrator or Director, or an appropriate state agency. Authorized representatives should present their credentials to the vessel owner or operator before inspecting or entering any vessel.
BUT WAIT….THERE’S MORE!!! First, individual states have the ability to add to the regulations. Next, the regulations can be changed in ensuing years. It’s the “You ain’t seen nothing yet” scenario, so familiar with governmental bureaucracies. It’s the “stick the shoe in the door so you can kick it down later” theory. And the underlying premise for this and future rule changes, as well as enforcement, is that we’re being lumped into the same category as huge cargo ships from around the world.
And there’s even MORE. According to some EPA officials, they don’t expect all states to sign off on this in time. This would mean a boat in that state would not have a permit. “Sounds good,” you say. Not quite. This, I understand, would open the way to a vigilante type of “citizen’s law suit” against boaters in that state for operating without a permit. And “citizens” can mean well heeled powerful radical organizations.
Well, there’s an easy answer. Or at least it would seem to be easy—but it requires Congress to do the right thing and do it on time. “Shouldn’t be too hard,” you may be thinking. “Everybody knows my kayak isn’t a container ship.” Don’t count on it. Do something. You pay taxes. You vote. You are a committed environmentalist. Anybody that pays what it takes to have a boat has got to love the environment—if, for no other reason, because boating isn’t fun in dirty surroundings. But once again we’re victims of poorly informed if well intentioned radical groups and we need to be heard. Pending before Congress is an act (one bill in the House, one in the Senate) called the Clean Boating Act of 2008. It removes pleasure boats from the regulation intended for large commercial trans-ocean boats. It, according to the NMMA and BoatUS and many other organizations, solves this problem for now.
There’s a quick and easy way to find out the facts, read the proposals, and contact your congresspersons. Go to http://www.boatus.com/gov/documents/EPAPERMIT.pdf . It’s a section of the BoatUS site. You can contact your representatives by going to www.boatblue.org. It’s easy and convenient. Read about it. Learn about it. Then click the “Take Action” button on the right of that home page. But, of course, maybe you really like oatmeal.
Copyright 2004-2008 Tom Neale