Joint Subcommittee Studying Economic Incentives to Promote Virginia's Shipbuilding Industry
November 19, 2001, Richmond
During its last meeting of 2001, the joint subcommittee heard testimony on the history of tributyltin (TBT) environmental regulations and current levels of TBT in Virginias waters. The joint subcommittee also considered and recommended several legislative proposals for the 2002 Session of the General Assembly.
TBT Environmental Regulations
Representatives of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) testified that Virginias water quality standard for TBT, 1 part per trillion (1 ppt), was adopted in 1988. The standard has been approved by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and as a result, cannot be changed under Virginia law without the concurrence of the EPA.
Virginias water quality standard for TBT is more stringent than the standard supported by EPA (10 ppt), because TBT has an adverse impact on certain marine organisms very common to the waters of the Commonwealth. The Virginia Institute of Marine Science conducted a study identifying several organisms residing in Virginias waters that are severely impacted by TBT (e.g., hard-shell clams). Only South Carolina and California have a water quality standard for TBT comparable to Virginias.
The permits issued to Virginias shipyards contain requirements for meeting Virginias standard for TBT. Between 1988 and 1993, these requirements were in the form of best management practices, a series of required steps and procedures that shipyards were to adhere to when handling TBT. These required steps and procedures were included in shipyards permits in the effort to meet the 1 ppt water quality standard for TBT. Best management practices, however, are not numerical effluent limitations.
Beginning in 1994, the EPA required Virginia to include in the permits issued to shipyards a numerical effluent limitation of 50 ppt for TBT, which replaced the best management practices. At the time of this requirement, and even today, it is unclear whether the 50 ppt effluent limitation can be consistently achieved under current science and technology. Nonetheless, the permits issued to Virginias shipyards require them to comply with this numerical effluent limitation by December 2002.
DEQ testified that based upon current water quality information, it is unlikely that the EPA will approve a reduction in Virginias standard for TBT. Thus, Virginias shipyards could face significant fines and penalties if compliance with the 50 ppt numerical effluent limitation cannot be achieved by December 2002.
Current Levels of TBT in Virginias Waters
Representatives of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) testified that over the last few years water samples have been collected from 18 different sites in the Elizabeth River and Hampton Roads to determine the level of TBT in Virginias waters. The samples disclosed that at all testing sites located in the Elizabeth River TBT levels exceeded Virginias 1 ppt water quality standard. At testing sites located at marina locations, however, the samples disclosed that TBT levels have declined. Representatives of VIMS concluded that (i) TBT in the Elizabeth River does not appear to be decreasing, and (ii) Virginias 1988 standard for TBT has helped to reduce TBT levels at marina locations.
The joint subcommittee made the following legislative recommendations for the 2002 Session of General Assembly: