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Water: Oceans, Coasts, Estuaries & Beaches

30 Years of the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act (1972- 2002)

Men retrieving fish from a basket-shaped fishnet that is full of fish.

In the past, many people did not fully consider the effects of dumping waste materials in the ocean. They assumed that the ocean's immense size and ability to mix and disperse materials made it a convenient and safe place to dump wastes. Over several decades of dumping, some areas of the marine environment became increasingly contaminated with high concentrations of harmful pollutants.

Sight-seers using binoculars to look out over Oregon's rocky coastline

On October 23, 1972, Congress passed the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA) to control ocean dumping and to protect the marine environment and human health. The MPRSA bans certain harmful wastes from ocean disposal (radiological, chemical, and biological warfare agents, high-level radioactive wastes, medical wastes, sewage sludge, and industrial wastes). Anyone seeking to dump other materials must show that the dumping will not pose a danger to human health or the environment, and that there are no better alternatives for reuse or disposal, in order to obtain a permit for the dumping. EPA has issued stringent environmental criteria for evaluating materials proposed for ocean dumping.

Most of the material dumped in U.S. ocean waters today is dredged material (sediments) removed from the bottom of water bodies to maintain the nation's navigation system. Other materials, such as fish wastes, vessels, and human remains, are dumped in limited amounts. The MPRSA is doing its part to keep our oceans and coastal waters clean and safe!

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