THOMAS W. SHERMAN, PRESIDENT OF AQUACIDE LLC
SENATE ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE HEARING ON S. 525, THE NATIONAL AQUATIC INVASIVE SPECIES ACT OF 2003.
JUNE 17, 2003
Thank you, Chairman Inhofe and Members of the Committee, for the opportunity to present Aquacide's views on certain aspects of the Bill, especially as they pertain to Ballast Water Management.
Aquacide is a ballast water engineering firm consisting of engineers and scientists with expertise in thermodynamics, fluid/gas handling, metallurgy, marine biology, naval architecture, marine engineering, biochemistry, toxicity, waste water treatment, marine law, patents and licensing. We have been involved in the invasive species problem for more than ten years, and participated in the preparation of Sen. Glenn’s Bill, the National Invasive Species Act of 1996.
The invasion of our waters has been going on for years. Congress took note of it and passed, in 1990, the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act (NANPCA). During the intervening years, scientists have been driving the Invasive Species train, and while this has resulted in the accumulation of much needed data, little has actually been accomplished to stem the tide of invaders. I should add here that my use of the term “stem the tide” is not original. “Stemming the Tide” is the title of a book published in 1996 by the National Research council, which is considered to be the “bible” for those involved in this business.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has been addressing the issue with numerous international meetings, exchanges of papers, etc. Also, for years, the Coast Guard has been publishing for comment proposals for regulating ballast water. The “community” of scientists, shipowners, regulators and others have actively participated, and the volumes of paperwork accumulated in this process are a matter of public record.
There is no shortage of data.
But in thirteen years, nothing concrete has been achieved. So every day, thousands of tons of unregulated ballast water containing invasive species and disease causing pathogens are being discharged into our waters. Action is clearly required, and that is the thrust of my remarks today.
Other than voluntary ballast water exchange (BWE), there are no controls over ballast water being discharged into U.S. waters. We believe that it is time, as Congress addresses the present legislation, to move forward and establish mandatory requirements which will actually begin to stem the tide. In the process of moving forward, decisions will have to be made, some of which may be painful, but these decisions must be made. We view the legislation before you as a crossroads – a golden opportunity to transition the process from being problem oriented to solution oriented.
The scientists and the regulators have had their day in court (thirteen years of them), and it is now time for the owners, the builders, the innovators and the engineers to make things happen. While they are at work, the scientists will continue their work on the evolving threat.
As Aquacide sees things, the main order of business before this Committee, as pertaining to ballast water treatment, and where the decisions need to be taken, is the establishment of mandatory standards and a timetable for their implementation. This action, which will lead to consideration and passage by the Congress, should be completed in a timely fashion. When one considers those thousands of tons of unregulated ballast water being discharged into our waters, the need for prompt action is apparent
Only after Congress has set the standards and the timetable can the owners commit resources needed to get the engineers and builders to configure the ships to meet the standards. Proper “grandfathering” must be built into the process to protect the owners’ investments, which will involve billions of dollars.
The stated goal of Congress is to eliminate the risk of introduction of non-native species, and plant, animal, or human pathogens by vessels. This is often called zero discharge. To our knowledge, Aquacide’s thermal pasteurization process is the only existing technology able to approach this theoretical limit. But whatever standards are adapted should not limit research which might lead to alternative treatment methods which, given the evolving threat, may be required. At this point it is appropriate to point out that the invasive species threat has already evolved into a public health threat, given that pathogens are now recognized as part of the invasion. I note that some of the members of this Committee are also members of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. The public health policy aspects of invasive species require decision makers to lean toward the worst-case scenarios. The public, as they become more informed about the issue, will demand action rather than inaction.
The first required step of the process is to establish Interim Standards and we urge the Committee to act promptly to get these established as soon as possible. At this point, I’m going to borrow an example from the aerospace world to help view Interim Standards in the proper perspective.
When, say, the Air Force procures a new aircraft, it doesn’t go immediately into full-scale production. It starts with a prototype, which is everybody’s best estimate as to what the final product will be. When the prototype is fielded for test, many things show up that nobody had thought about. The Law of Unintended Consequences plays large here, as does Murphy’s Law. After the prototype is wrung out and fixed, only then is full-scale production begun. Some call this “fly before buy.” There probably will still be some bugs left, but usually they are minor. The main thing is not to get set into concrete too soon in the process. I equate Interim Standards to prototypes. With proper wording, the bugs in the Interims – and there will be some – can be worked out with a minimum of time and effort. These, in turn, will lead to solid, workable Final Standards. As you probably recall, the Draft of the Bill before us contains a time line which includes this logical approach.
Given the importance of Interim Standards, I will lay them out in a step-by-step format:
1. They should be viewed as the first step toward the Congressional goal of zero discharge.
2. They should be better than Ballast Water Exchange (BWE), or at least as effective. This will require an arbitrary decision (and the “community” knows why it must be arbitrary) as to what is meant by “as effective as BWE.” The Coast Guard should, by law, make this decision, but if there are legal concerns in that Agency over making such a decision, Congress can make it. In any event, this decision must be made promptly.
3. They should be viewed as they are titled: Interim. All concerned parties – shippers, Coast Guard, scientists, engineers, etc. – will learn by doing. The prototype analogy.
4. The measurement protocols must be stated and must use commonly accepted yardsticks. Without these protocols, standards are meaningless. Physical size (so many microns) is one such measure and there are also commonly accepted biological measures, (which we favor) used in the field by Agencies like the EPA, such as Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) and Oxygen Uptake Rate (OUR). These measures have been studied by the Coast Guard and if approved, would be given Type Approval, which is in the draft language of the Bill.
5. They should not be stated in terms subject to interpretation, like “as clean as drinking water.” There are many legitimate definitions of this term. Also, they should not be contingent on future activity, i.e., using language like “to be developed.” They should be based on data in hand now, which exists in abundance. Final Standards (including measurement protocols) will be based on lessons learned from the Interim Standards. Standards must be established which reduce uncertainty to the absolute minimum. Uncertainty puts an unreasonable burden on those who must bear the costs of ballast water treatment, the shipowners.
The above specifics apply to Interim Standards in general. The Regulatory Agencies appear to be reluctant to accept them as they require decision making, enforcement, and schedules on their part. But to comply with the stated intent of Congress in 1990, this action must be taken. Those who state that the current process is working OK are clearly unwilling to take the action, because, as stated earlier, in the thirteen years that the current process has been operating, the invasion continues. There is still nothing on the books.
Hopefully, this hearing will lead to action which, as a minimum, will result in the establishment of Interim Standards and a schedule. After all these years, the first steps will have been taken to Stem the Tide.
We appreciate the opportunity to contribute to this important legislation.