Agencies Plan to Curb Military Ship Pollution

     WASHINGTON (CN) - Two federal agencies have proposed new standards for certain discharges from U.S. military ships to reduce pollution and spur scientific development.
     The proposed Uniform National Discharge Standards apply to military ships in the navigable waters surrounding the United States and its territories. They are meant to reduce environmental impacts, and stimulate the development of better methods of pollution control and more environmentally sound ships. The new standards, proposed jointly by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Defense, would also be more consistent with those that apply to non-military ships.
     The rule would establish performance standards for 11 types of discharges such as reverse osmosis brine, photo lab drains and non-oily machinery wastewater. The standards would not apply to discharges of garbage, sewage or air emissions and would not become enforceable until after the DoD approves the design and installation of the systems and devices used to curb the pollution.
     The EPA and DoD identified the various discharges during the first phase of a three-phase process. The proposed rule is the second phase. Phase three involves implementation and design. This could include changes in motorized equipment or development of more environmentally friendly oils and engine fluids.
     The discharges can potentially harm aquatic habitats and species. Not only do they contain pollutants like oil and grease, but also can contain invasive species, bacteria, pathogens, and various toxic materials. For instance, aqueous film-forming foam is used to fight fires on about 10 percent of military ships and contains urea, alkyl sulfate salts, nitrogen as well as various microorganisms and a host of other water pollutants. The new standard would require that the foam be collected and stored for disposal on shore if it is used for testing or training purposes.
     Individual states can seek to prohibit the discharges and establish no-discharge zones, but must show how prohibiting the discharges would help the marine environment.
     Comments are due by April 4.