Celebrating 30 Years
   of Protecting Our Oceans





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 Treasured
             Our coastal and ocean waters arc critical to
             the well-being of our quality <>t lite -from
             ecological, economic, recreation, anil
             esthetic perspectives. ('oastal .liul 
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 30  Years of
                Progress
      n the past, little attention was given to the environ-
      mental effects of waste disposal, and even less to
      reuse,  recycling, or other beneficial uses ol sueh
      materials. The emphasis was on finding convenient
disposal places tor waste. Because ol their immense si/,c
and assumed unlimited  mixing capacity, coastal and ocean
waters became a receptacle tor many transportable wastes.
Ivvidence now demonstrates that the marine environ-
ment became increasingly polluted in a number of geo
graphic  areas, with high concentrations of heavy metals,
inorganic nutrients, chlorinated petrochemicals, and
bacteria. In other areas  of the sea,  the uncontrolled
dumping <>(  wastes caused oxygen  levels to become
severely depressed.
The  passage  ol the Marine Protection, Research, and
Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA) in 1972 marked a major  mile-
stone in the  protection  ot the marine environment.  The
1972 MPRSA banned ocean disposal of radiological,
chemical, and biological warfare agents,  high-level
radioactive waste, and medical waste, and required a per-
mit tor the ocean dumping of any  other materials.  In
198.$, the law was amended to make any ocean dumping
ol low-level radioactive  waste require specific approval by
Congress. The ocean dumping of sewage sludge and of
industrial wastes, such as wastes from plastics and phar-
maceutical manufacturing plants and from petrochemi-
cal refineries, was prohibited by Congressional
amendment  in 198X. Today, the vast majority of the
material ocean dumped from the Unite
dredged mad                      Irom the bottom
of \v           to maintain the nation's na\         ,s-
tem). I >tl)c-r, limited disposal consists prinui'
wastes, vessels, and human ;
Under the MPRSA, l.I'A establishes criteria for review-
      ill evaluating ocean dumping permit applications
that consider the el lei I  of, and need for, the dumping.
:TV\ also establishes criteria lor designating sites for
ocean disposal ot any material. Designated sites must
have management and monitoring plans.
The U.S. Army (iorps ot hnginccrs issues permits for
the disposal  of dredged material, subject to EPA concur-
rence. 1',1'A is the permitting authority for all other
materials proposed for ocean clumping. A permit may
only be issued where it  is determined that the dumping
would not unreasonably degrade or endanger human
health, welfare, or amenities, or the marine environ-
ment, ecological systems, or economic potentialities,
and that there is a need for the ocean dumping.
Furthermore, notice and opportunity for public com-
ment is required before a permit can be issued.
EPA's Ocean Survey Vessel Peter W. Anderson.

today, the United States is at the forefront of protecting
coasial and ocean waters from adverse impacts due to
ocean dumping. The ocean is no longer considered an
appropriate disposal location for most wastes. Those few
materials that are ocean dumped are carefully evaluated to
ensure that they will not pose a danger to human health
or the environment and that there are no better alterna-
tives for their reuse or disposal. While many chall.
    
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 Ocean Dumping Before the
                MPRSA
                While no complete records exist of vol-
                umes and types of materials on-.in
                dumped  in the United States prior to
                the 1972 passage of the MPRSA, vari-
ous reports give some indication of the magnitude of
ocean dumping and its effects. For example, a 19~0
Report to the President from the Council on
Environmental Quality identified the ocean disposal, in
ll)o
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 Ocean Dumping-
What's Allowed
               Most of die material that is clumped in
               U.S. oceans today is dredged in.iicri.il
               (sediments) removed Irom the bottom
               ol watcrbodics to maintain the nation's
 navigation system tor commercial, transportation,
 national defense, and recreational purposes. Several hun-
 dred million cubic yards of sediment are dredged from
 waterways, ports, and harbors each year for this purpose,
 and approximately 20 percent of this material is dis-
 posed of  in the ocean. The remainder of the sediments
 arc disposed of in inland waters, upland areas, or con
 fined disposal areas adjacent to shorelines, or used bene-
 ficially. Regulation of dredged material disposal in ocean
 waters is  a shared responsibility  of HI'A and the I '.S.
 Army Corps of Hngineers.  I he decision to issue a permit
 (or amhori/.c ocean dumping by the dorps)  is made by
 the Corps using El'A's environmental criteria, and is
 subject to HI'As concurrence. Dumping that occurs in,
 or affects. State waters may also be subject to review for
 consistency with State requirements, such as State water
 quality standards and enforceable State requirements
 under the ( loastal /one Management Act.
( )ther materials that are currently ocean disposed
include fish wastes, human remains, and vessels. For
these- and any other allowable materials (other than
dredged material), HI'A is  responsible lor issuing a per-
mit. Some materials, such  as high-level radioactive
wastes, medical wastes, and radiological, chemical, and
biological warfare agents, may not be permitted lot
ocean clumping under any circumstances.
HI'A establishes the environmental criteria for evaluating
ocean dumping applications, and  designates recommend-
ed ocean dumping sites. The ocean dumping criteria
consider the environmental impact of the dumping, the
need  tor the dumping, the  effect of the dumping on
esthetic, recreational, or economic values, and the adverse
effects of the dumping on other uses ol the ocean.
              Dumping from split-hull barge.
Evaluation of Dredged Material
     ',ed materials, as well as other materials proposed for ocean disposal, must undergo a series of tests and evaluations to
     nine whether they meet EPA's environmental criteria for ocean dumping. These criteria consider the environmental
impact of the dumping, the need for the dumping, the effect of the dumping on esthetic, ivc Rational, or economic values,
and the adverse effects of the dumping on other uses of the ocean. No permit is issued unless there is enough information
to make a sc ientilically sound determination that the ocean dumping will not cause significant harmful effects.
Evaluation and testing of dredged material proposed for ocean dumping is conducted to help protect human health
and the marine environment. The sediments dredged from our waterways can be contaminated by chemical and
                            other pollutants. If biologically available, such contaminants can be ingested or
                            absorbed by marine organisms, resulting in toxicity (e.g., death) or accumulation in
                            the organism's tissues (bioaccumulation).  The evaluation procedures used are designed
                            to protect against toxicity and  bioaccumulation that may adversely impact the marine
                            environment or human health, and to produce information about the potential tor
                            these effects, efficiently  and reliably.
Clamshell dredge.
                          The testing procedures used to evaluate ocean dumping must be approved by EPA and
                          the (!orps. I  I'A and the Corps jointly published a testing manual in r>')l  that provides
                          guidance for evaluating the eiTvironment.il acceptability of dredged material proposed to
ocean dumped          uui.il ad Corps District offices worlnHfther to develop Regional implementation manuals
     jV                        i         i           i
 providc\>i!
 oTx^iixl
                       inciiic-nts to the national guidahfg, s
                                 cues of oi;',HMSms to Be
                          \     
ing contaminaj
of dredged n
                           t.s of concern for particular
                           erial.
                                                                              f-Ji


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Beyond the
                 MPRSA
                Ocean waters are susceptible to t he-
                impacts of pollution not only Iroiu
                MCcan dumping, but also from point
                source pollution (discharges from pipes),
                nonpoint source pollution (from rain-
fall, snowmelt, or irrigation running over land or through
the ground, picking up pollutants, and depositing them
into rivers, lakes and coastal waters), air deposition (deliv-
er) of pollutants from the atmosphere to land or wan i I,
discharges and spills from vessels, loss ot habitat  (especial-
ly wetlands), introduction of invasive species, and mixing
from adjoining surface and ground  waters. A few of EPA's
programs to address these sources are discussed below.
Point sources  of pollution to coastal and ocean waters arc-
addressed primarily  through the National Pollutant
Discharge Elimination System (NPDF.S) permit  program,
which evaluates permit applications  based on technology-
and water quality-based requirements. This system is
enhanced by the Ocean Discharge Criteria, established by
EPA under Section 403 of the Clean Water Act,  which
provide further requirements for point source discharges
to ocean waters. These criteria are intended to ensure that
no unreasonable degradation ot the  marine environment
will occur as a result of a discharge and to ensure that
sensitive ecological communities are protected. If the
ocean discharge criteria are not met, a permit will not be
issued for a discharge  to ocean waters.
EPA and its Federal, State, Tribal, and local partners are
also working hard to control nonpoint sources of pollution
to coastal and ocean waters. Under Section 31^ "t the
Clean Water Act, which applies nationwide, each State,
Territory, and Tribe  has developed and is now implement-
ing an approved and upgraded nonpn,
ment program. These programs include a combination of
non-regulatory and regulatory tools, planning activities,
technical and financial assistance, education, training,
technology transfer,  monitoring, and demonstration proj-
ects. Congress provides funding each year to assist th\
States, Territories, and Tribes in implementing their  \t
approved programs. EPA and the Nato^nar^ceanic an
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 The International
                 onnection
T
              he MPRSA implements the ('(invention
              on the Prevention of Marine Pollution
              by I )umping of Wastes ;incl ( )ther
              Matter, also known as the London
              (Convention. This is an international
ire.ity, established in 1972, under the International
Maritime ()rgani/ation (IMO) to create a global sys-
tem to protect the marine environment from pollution
caused by ocean dumping. The London Convention
covers the deliberate disposal  at sea of wastes or other
in.liter from vessels, aircraft, platforms, and other man-
made structures, prohibits the dumping of certain haz-
ardous materials, and requires a permit for dumping
other wastes or matter. The United States is a party to
the London  Convention, and is thus committed to
meeting the treaty's requirements.
In 1992, the Parties to the London Convention began
a comprehensive review of the Convention, which
eventually resulted in the  1996 Protocol, a new, sepa-
i.iu treaty. The United States was in the forefront of
                           those countries negotiat-
                           ing the new Protocol,
Bf  ^T&&5S&K  %!      which is more compre-
1*  A MCTv^rm A  5r     hensive, stringent, and
V>1 flvis&SuW kXf     protective of the marine
                           environment  than the
                           London Convention. One
                           of the major differences
                           between the two treaties is
                           that the London Conven-
tion allows ocean dumping except for a "blacklist" of
prohibited materials (some of which can neverth
be dumped  if they are only present as "trace contami-
nants"), whereas the Protocol establishes a  limited list
of materials (called a "reverse list") that may be
dumped after i.ireful environmental evaluation '
dredged material). The United States has signed the
Protocol and is working toward ratification (by which
the United States would become a party to the treaty).
Although the Protocol will not be in force until 26
countries ratify it, the United States is already imple-
menting its  substantive provisions.
      IMO

                                                          Contacts
Oceans and Coastal Protection Division (4504T)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460
202/566-1200

Office of Ecosystem Protection (CWQ)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 1
1 Congress Street, Suite 1100
Boston, MA 02114
617/918-1620

Division of Environmental Planning and Protection
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2
290 Broadway
New York, NY 10007
212/637-3724

Office of Environmental Assessment (3ES-10)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 3
1650 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
215/814-2710

Water Management Division
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4
61 Forsyth Street, S.W.
Atlanta, GA 30303
404/562-9355

Water Quality Protection Division (6WQE)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 6
1445 Ross Avenue, Suite 1200
Dallas, TX 75202
214/665-7135

Water Division (WTR-8)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9
75 Hawthorne Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
415/972-3464

Office of Ecosystems (ECO-081)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 10
1200 Sixth Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101
206/553-1381

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