"The federal government has agreed to step up its efforts to force freighters sailing on the Great Lakes to begin treating their biologically contaminated ballast water discharges like any other industrial pollutant.
Unwanted stowaways in ship-steadying ballast tanks have been blamed for some of the Great Lakes' most troublesome invaders since the St. Lawrence Seaway created an artificial shipping link to the Atlantic Ocean a half century ago. The list includes the quagga mussels that now smother the bottom of Lake Michigan, choking out native fish species and spawning noxious algae outbreaks that routinely pile up in stinking mounds on some of Wisconsin's most prized beaches.
On Tuesday, conservation groups announced that the Environmental Protection Agency had agreed in an out-of-court settlement to draft new pollution standards for ballast discharges under the landmark 1972 Clean Water Act.
The settlement, prompted by a 2009 lawsuit, calls for the EPA to develop ballast pollution standards for the shipping industry by the end of 2012. The EPA would then begin enforcing those standards by the end of the following year."