Please allow me to correct some of the points letter writer Bernard Helinski recently made regarding ships' ballast water polluting the Chesapeake Bay ("Ship ballast a major source of pollution," Jan. 7).
Current U.S. Coast Guard regulations require open ocean exchange of ballast water (flushing of ballast tanks 200 miles offshore and refilling with ocean water). This minimizes the potential for contaminated water from foreign ports being discharged because the ballast that arrives in the U.S. is mostly relatively clean open ocean water with very low levels of nutrients and toxins, if any.
Furthermore, once new USCG regulations requiring onboard ballast water treatment systems are implemented, ballast water treatment systems will only be certified for use if they can demonstrate the removal of E. coli, enterococci and V. cholerae, which are either human pathogens or indicators of polluted water.
The Environmental Protection Agency has similar requirements for ballast water and other discharges from ships under the Vessel General Permit, and both the USCG regulations and EPA permits involve inspections and monitoring of ballast water discharges.
There are many contributors to pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, but the maritime industry is heavily regulated both nationally and internationally in an attempt to help protect the environment.
Mario N. Tamburri
The writer is director of the Maritime Environmental Resource Center at the University of Maryland.