Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972

Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972

Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 or Ocean Dumping Act is one of several key environmental laws passed by the US Congress in 1972.[1][2] It authorized the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate ocean dumping of industrial waste, sewage sludge, biological agents, NBC, radioactive waste and other wastes into the territorial waters of the United States through a permit program.

Contents

Background

For much of history, the ocean was used generally as a dumping ground for many types of waste such as garbage, acid rain and toxins. One area off the coast of New Jersey was used in the beginning of the 19th century as a disposal area for sewage sludge. This area is now known as the "12-Mile Dumping Ground," and has a large amount of toxic metals. Divers are still advised to avoid the area due to the high level of refuse materials and toxins.[3]

Title I: Ocean dumping

The basic objective of the permit program is to "prevent or strictly limit the dumping into ocean waters of any material that would adversely affect human health, welfare, or amenities, or the marine environment, ecosystems, or economic potentialities."[4] The Secretary of the Army (through the Corps of Engineers) is authorized to issue permits for dredged material disposal, and EPA is authorized to designate appropriate dump sites.

Dumping restrictions were enacted for both U.S. flag vessels and materials transported from a location outside the U.S. With respect to the latter category, dumping was prohibited within the U.S. territorial sea and the U.S. contiguous zone. A specific dumping prohibition was included for radiological, chemical and biological warfare agents, high-level radioactive waste and medical wastes. Restrictions have since been placed on dumping activities in the New York Bight Apex, and sewage sludge dumping at the "106-Mile Site" offshore of New Jersey ended in 1992.[5]

Title II: Ocean dumping research and monitoring

Title II of the Act authorizes the Secretary of Commerce (through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)) to coordinate a research and monitoring program with EPA and the United States Coast Guard. This program is designed as a long-term research program to study the "possible long-range effects of pollution, overfishing, and man-induced changes of ocean ecosystems." Similarly, EPA is authorized to conduct research regarding dumping alternatives and to consider, in cooperation with other Federal agencies, the feasibility of regional management plans for waste disposal in coastal areas. Congressional reports are required annually.

Amendment

The Ocean Dumping Ban Act,[6] a 1988 amendment to the MPRSA, banned all ocean dumping of sewage sludge and industrial waste, as well as radiological, chemical, and biological warfare agents, and high level radioactive waste.[7][8] Its passage was contemporary to the phenomenon of the Syringe Tide, whereby medical waste (vials of blood, syringes) washed up on the shores of New Jersey and Long Island during the summer of 1988. Concurrent with amending the MPRSA, Congress addressed the medical waste problem with passage of the Medical Waste Tracking Act (MWTA), which amended the Solid Waste Disposal Act.[9]

See also

References

  1. ^ Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act of 1972, Pub.L. 92-532, 86 Stat. 1052, enacted October 23, 1972. Full statute is at 86 Stat. 1052 and 1061. Titles I and II are codified at 33 U.S.C. § 1401-1445. Title III is codified at 16 U.S.C. § 1431-1445.
  2. ^ U.S. Senate. Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act of 1972. http://epw.senate.gov/mprsa72.pdf.  (Full text)
  3. ^ Offshore Dumping Grounds, at NJ scuba diving website, accessed 11/11/07.
  4. ^ MPRSA sec. 2(b), 33 U.S.C. § 1401(b).
  5. ^ U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Washington, DC (1995). "Monitoring, Research, and Surveillance of the 106-Mile Deepwater Municipal Dump Site and Environs. Report to Congress. Document no. EPA-842-R-95-001. p. iii.
  6. ^ Ocean Dumping Ban Act, P.L. 100-688, Title I; 102 Stat. 4139. Enacted 1988-11-18.
  7. ^ EPA (1988). "Ocean Dumping Ban Act of 1988." Press release. 1988-11-21.
  8. ^ Lion, Len. "Ocean Dumping." CEE 3510: Environmental Quality Engineering. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. 2008-04-25.
  9. ^ Medical Waste Tracking Act, P.L. 100-582, Nov. 1, 1988, 102 Stat. 2950, 42 U.S.C. § 6992.

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