Lawsuit Launched to Protect Waters From Ship Pollution, Invasive Species

Lawsuit Launched to Protect U.S. Waters From Ship Pollution, Invasive Species

EPA Late on Rules to Limit Vessel Discharges of Live, Biological Pollution

WASHINGTON —  The Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth filed a notice of intent today to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to finalize nationwide standards to protect U.S. waterways from harmful vessel discharges. These discharges carry invasive species, pathogens and other pollutants that pose serious threats to the nation’s waters, ecosystems, economy and public health.  

“The EPA needs to stop ships from spewing zebra mussels, infectious diseases and other organisms into our waterways, contaminating ecosystems and communities,” said Julie Teel Simmonds, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The agency’s foot-dragging on finalizing strong, legally required vessel discharge standards is inexcusable. Every day without ship discharge rules ramps up the risks and harms.”   

Ballast water, which is taken up and carried in a ship’s ballast tanks to improve stability, includes plants and other organisms from the vessel’s region of origin. This water and its biological baggage are then re-released in destination regions, where some species become pests and threaten water quality. Environmental and community groups have been fighting for more than a decade for strong standards that would minimize the harms inflicted by ballast water and other vessel discharges.  

On Dec. 4, 2018, Congress passed the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, consolidating laws that regulated vessel discharges to prevent the introduction of harmful pollutants. The law requires the EPA to establish vessel discharge standards, including to control ballast water pollution, by Dec. 4, 2020. While EPA released a proposed rule on Oct. 26, 2020, the agency never finalized it. 

“Ship discharges are wreaking ecological, economic and public health havoc, all while the EPA sits on its hands,” said Marcie Keever, oceans and vessels program director at Friends of the Earth. “The agency must protect people, the economy, wildlife and habitats from harmful vessel pollution without any further delay.”  


Julie Teel Simmonds, Center for Biological Diversity, (619) 990-2999, [email protected]  

Brittany Miller, Friends of the Earth, (202) 222-0746, [email protected] 


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