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Save the River and lawmakers fight for stricter ballast water discharge standards

Julia Botero
WRVO News (file photo)

A North Country organization is teaming up with members of Congress to put pressure on the Environmental Protection Agency, and they say the future of a major waterway is at stake.

Save the River Executive Director John Peach said invasive species are wreaking havoc on the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes. He said the EPA needs to make some changes.

"Fishing and the overall water quality is so important to all of us,” said Peach. “I mean, it's the main reason frankly, most of us live along the lake and the river."

To fight further environmental damage, 34 members of Congress have sent a letter to the EPA lobbying for stricter ballast water discharge standards.

Peach said when ships arrive, they carry water in their ballast that could come from anywhere in the world. When that water is released, aquatic invasive species can also be released.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Clean Water Act, and the representatives who penned the letter and environmentalists like Save the River argue that current standards do not go far enough to meet the requirements of the CWA.

Peach would like the EPA to require better filtration on those ships.

“Filtration systems need to be designed and built on the ships, so when they are discharging the ballast water, it runs through a filtration system that would be small enough that it would pick up all the larvae and eggs, and then that could be burned or disposed of,” said Peach.

While no upstate or central New York members of Congress have signed the letter to the EPA, Peach said he hopes local representatives will realize protecting the future of the environment can be a bipartisan issue.

"We're never going to get rid of the zebra mussel or quagga mussel or gobies,” said Peach. “But if we can stop any more of those species coming in, for the cost of a few million dollar filtration systems per ship, and those filtration systems will be there for a long time, I think it's very worthwhile."

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.