The answer to the ballast-water problem is to drop the idea of developing a ballast-treatment system and ban all saltwater ships from the Great Lakes. Then we can solve the threat from the Mississippi end by plugging the Chicago canal, cutting off the man-made connection that was created 103 years ago.
A university study has shown that making salties transfer their cargoes between lakes freighters, railroads or trucks would add only about $55 million a year to the cost of doing business, a fraction of the $l50 million to $250 million we spend cleaning up after zebra mussels alone.
Let's not forget the problems of invasive species were foreseen over 25 years ago:
In a 1981 document submitted to Environment Canada, Bio-Environmental Services Limited sampled the ballast water of 55 ships entering the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River system from 10 regions of the world. Almost every ballast tank sampled contained aquatic organisms “in a viable state,” totaling more than 150 distinct genera and species of phytoplankton and 56 aquatic invertebrates. The company concluded:
are numerous examples of innocuous organisms in their native habitat becoming
serious pests in a new habitat. The absence of natural enemies and other
environmental controls permit the introduced species to proliferate and develop
into serious problem organisms…A number of nonendemic aquatic organisms found
in the ballast water samples and capable of establishing themselves in the Great Lakes
The company specifically mentioned the still-distant
zebra mussel, whose scientific name is Dreissenia polymorphus.Although
the mussel was not found in ballast water during the study, the report warned,
“in some ports of Europe,it still occurs in
estuarine conditions. This situation, coupled with the occurrence of its
veliger larvae in the plankton for up to 3 months, greatly enhances its
potential for introduction to the Great Lakes in ship ballast water. If introduced, Dreissenia could establish itself
in North America."
Joseph Schormann, a senior program
engineer with Environment Canada convinced of the threat posed to the Great Lakes by organisms in ballast water, commissioned
the study. After his retirement, Schormann expressed regret about the failure
of both Canadian and U.S. agencies to close the door before the zebra mussel entered the ecosystem.
“After it came out,” Schormann said of the study, “it was reviewed by a lot of
people from both coast guards. The opinion was 50-50 whether it was worthwhile
to pursue it and do something or do nothing. Much to my regret, the do-nothing
vote won the day, and it was shelved.” University of Windsor aquatic biologist Paul Hebert said more tartly, “I think it was a very, very
expensive mistake. There’s just no question there will be a multi-million
dollar cost to the Canadian population forever. I think it’s just unacceptable
that when this report was in, no action was taken upon it. It didn’t take
someone with a crystal ball to recognize this problem.”
University of Windsor aquatic biologist Paul Hebert said more tartly, “I think it was a very, very expensive mistake. There’s just no question there will be a multi-million dollar cost to the Canadian population forever. I think it’s just unacceptable that when this report was in, no action was taken upon it. It didn’t take someone with a crystal ball to recognize this problem.”