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Coast Guard, EPA to unite to fight pollution

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Coast Guard signed a memorandum of understanding Friday to better coordinate efforts to prevent and enforce against illegal discharges of pollutants from vessels such as cruise ships and oil tankers.

"Protecting America's waters is one of EPA's top priorities, and our compliance and enforcement work is critical to meeting this challenge," Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a news release. "By building on our partnership with the Coast Guard, we are working to improve the health of our nation's treasured rivers, bays, harbors and estuaries."

Under the agreement, the Coast Guard will inspect for compliance with EPA's vessel general permit requirements regarding discharges. It also provides for greater cooperation on data tracking, training, monitoring, enforcement and industry outreach. The agencies will improve data requirements so information on potential violations observed during inspections can be sent to the EPA for evaluation and follow-up.

The vessel permit program applies to more than 61,000 commercial ships based in the United States and more than 8,000 foreign ships operating in U.S. waters. The permit covers 26 types of discharges such as deck runoff from rain, ballast water used to stabilize ships and waste water from showers, sinks and laundry machines. These discharges may can have harmful environment effects, including the spread of invasive species from ballast water.

- Judy Benson

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