Ocean Regulatory Programs
Federal, state, and local laws and regulations help protect our oceans and estuaries. Activities as diverse as dredging waterways and offering tourist cruises on sightseeing ships are examples of the many uses dependant on clean and safe water.
Top photo: Small ship at a dock in at the Port of Seattle takes passengers on tours of the harbor area.
Middle photo: The US Capitol dome in Washington, DC.
Bottom photo: Pipeline dredge working in a coastal shipping channel near Brownsville, Texas.
Federal regulation, in consultation with Federal, State, Tribal and local partners, is one of the fundamental tools the EPA uses to implement environmental policies designed to protect the environment and human health. Regulations are required by law and are necessary to interpret and implement laws intended to manage, protect, and restore water resources of the United States, including aquatic ecosystems of coastal watersheds and the oceans.
Marine and Ocean Discharges
In 1972, Congress passed the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, commonly known as the Clean Water Act (CWA). Under CWA section 402, any discharge of a pollutant from a point source (e.g., a municipal or industrial facility) to the navigable waters of the United States or beyond must obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, which requires compliance with technology- and water quality-based treatment standards.
Significant environmental impacts to coastal and ocean ecosystems occur via direct pollution from vessels, and as a vector for the invasion of non-indigenous species. Pollution from recreational, commercial, and military vessels emanates from a variety of sources, and include: gray water, bilgewater, blackwater (sewage), ballast water, anti-fouling paints (and their leachate), hazardous materials, and municipal and commercial garbage and other wastes.