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Seaway officials applaud new Coast Guard ballast rules

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St. Lawrence Seaway officials applauded Monday the U.S. Coast Guard’s final ballast water treatment regulation, a stark contrast to the heavy criticism it received last week from area environmentalists.

“The rule not only provides robust protection for the environment, but also preserves the 227,000 jobs that depend on maritime commerce in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system,” said St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. spokesperson Nancy T. Alcalde in a news release.

Upon its announcement Friday, the new ballast rule was attacked by groups like Save the River, Clayton, for adopting the International Maritime Organization’s “weak” ballast discharge standards.

Ballast is water carried in tanks to stabilize ocean vessels in transit.

Currently, ships entering U.S. waters are required only to flush or rinse these tanks at sea but the Coast Guard’s new rule would have ship operators install water management systems that would kill living organisms in ballast tanks with ultraviolet radiation or Coast Guard-approved chemicals among other treatment options.

The state of New York had adopted — and recently backed away from — a set of rules that proposed living organism limits 100 times or 1,000 times more stringent than the IMO standards.

Along with the shipping industry and the Canadian government, the Seaway for years has fought New York’s tough, “scientifically unachievable” ballast rules in favor of a more “reasonable” discharge limit.

Jennifer J. Caddick, head of Save the River, however, has argued that the weak IMO standards simply do not provide the protection needed to keep foreign invasive species out of the Great Lakes and that the real problem is the shipping industry’s unwillingness to invest in the costly, high-tech treatment systems.

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