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New California ballast water treatment law is toughest in the nation

Sep 20, 2006Legislation requiring ships to chemically treat their ballast water as a means to stop the introduction of invasive species into state waters was signed into law on September 18, 2006 in California. The new law, sponsored by NCEL participant California State Senator Joe Simitian, will be the toughest in the nation once implemented.

"My hope is that these standards will be a model for other states," Senator Simitian told the San Francisco Chronicle (

According to news reports, SB497 requires ships to treat ballast water before dumping it in ports or coastal waters. The treatment standards would be phased in, starting in 2009, to provide time for systems to be developed to kill the organisms. By 2020, no discharge of organisms larger than 50 microns - about the size of a grain of sand - would be allowed.

Ballast water is carried in unloaded ships to provide stability. The water is taken on board at the port before its voyage begins where the invasive species may be taken on board with it. When the ship is loaded with cargo at its destination port, the ballast water, with any surviving invasive species, is pumped out. Some of them then establish populations in the surrounding, foreign waters. It has been estimated that invasive species, aquatic and other, cost the United States over $122 billion per year (Source:

The California Legislature's analysis of SB497 can be viewed here:

Articles about the bill:
San Jose Mercury News:

Other Sources of Information:
This website provides an overview of federal, state, and international invasive species laws. Be aware that your state's info may not be up to date.

*Aquatics Nuisance Species (ANS) Task Force:
The Task force coordinates governmental efforts dealing with ANS in the U.S. with those of the private sector and other North American interests via regional panels and issue specific committees and work groups. The website has link to existing state plans for ANS.

*Northeast Midwest Institute:
This website provides quite a bit of information on studies, legislation and news regarding aquatic nuisance species and ballast water.

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