Enforce the Toxic Substances Control Act
According to the Office of Water, “If EPA were to regulate SINKEX under TSCA, SINKEX would be unlawful, and subject to citizen suit...” PCBs on SINKEX vessels are regulated solely under the MPRSA, rather than both TSCA and MPRSA. This determination was made under the authority of section 9(b) of TSCA, which provides that if the EPA Administrator determines that a risk to health or the environment associated with a chemical substance or mixture could be eliminated or reduced to a sufficient extent by actions taken under the authorities contained in other Federal laws, the Administrator shall use those authorities to protect against such risk unless he determines it is in the public interest to take action under TSCA.
The EPA proclaimed: “We believe there is no public interest in regulating the transportation
and disposal of PCBs associated with SINKEX under TSCA…” However, this statement was made when there was a lack of hard evidence of significant PCB leaching from sold-matrices into the marine environment. We now know that PCBs leach into the marine environment and are taken up by fish; PCBs are then transferred to humans as humans digest contaminated fish. It is clearly in the public’s interest to regulate the transport and disposal of PCBs via SINKEX under TSCA as SINKEX is detrimental to human health and the environment.
With respect to artificial reef dumping, which allowed such ships as the Ex-ORISKANY to be dumped with PCBs on board in excess of 50 ppm under a risk-based disposal permit, such approvals should be prohibited now that we know that the risks are unacceptable.
Eliminate Double Standards
The EPA views the sinking of vessels for the purpose of artificial reefing an act of disposal under TSCA regulations and therefore have lessened the PCB remediation requirements to a 50 ppm level. However, at the same time, the EPA also considers the act of sinking vessels for the purpose of artificial reefing an act of non- disposal (placement) under the London Convention and MPRSA, thereby avoiding the dumping prohibitions and application of the black list. Thus, the EPA has allowed a double standard in order to facilitate ocean dumping. Under this arrangement, the Navy and MARAD are allowed to dump vessels with least burden to the budgets of these agencies, and by
externalizing the costs to environment and the food chain.
If artificial reefing is considered disposal under the terms of TSCA, then it does not serve an alternative purpose and can be characterized as ocean dumping under the London Convention and MPRSA, and should be a prohibited action in which trace contaminant levels should apply. However, if a sunken vessel serves an alternative purpose (i.e. artificial reef, fisheries enhancement), the EPA should redefine the ocean disposal action as continued use or reuse. This adjustment would require remediation of PCBs to levels below 2 ppm, as opposed to the 50 ppm under the current disposal designation.
Ratify the London Protocol and Invoke the Precautionary Principle
The EPA states: “Considering the type of PCB material involved and the lack of evidence of unreasonable risk to human health or the
environment, the Office of Water has determined that the general MPRSA permit for SINKEX is protective of risks associated with
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