The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, the Maryland Port Administration and several other Maryland agencies have joined together to launch the Maritime Environmental Resource Center (MERC), a new research and testing project that aims to help prevent the spread of harmful aquatic invasive species via ship ballast water.
Ballast water is taken up by ships to stabilize weight while underway and later emptied when a ship needs to change its stability or unload its cargo. Along with water, ships can pick up small aquatic species in their ballast. When a ship picks up ballast from one body of water and empties it into another, it can inadvertently release those aquatic species, which may become invasive in their new environment.
There are more than 150 known invasive species in the Chesapeake, most of which are believed to have been introduced through ballast water.
The primary focus of MERC will be to test the effectiveness of systems designed to safely treat ballast water before it is discharged into the Bay and other local waterways. In the future, MERC may also focus on other maritime environmental issues, such as hull fouling, air emissions and gray and oily water treatments.
Testing will be performed aboard a working cargo ship donated by the U.S. Maritime Administration. With this mobile testing platform, MERC will be able to review the effects of temperature and salinity changes on various treatment systems.
Visit the MERC website for more information about the program.