LOS ANGELES -- Cruise ships and large commercial vessels will be barred from releasing sewage within three miles of the California coast under a rule signed Thursday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The restrictions establish the nation's largest ban on sewage discharge and will keep an estimated 22 million gallons out of state coastal waters each year, officials said.
The federal ban, which was granted initial approval last year, designates a "no discharge zone" for ships that weigh more than 300 tons, including the dozens of cruise ships and thousands of commercial vessels that make stops in California each year.
The rules prohibit them from releasing sewage in state waters, regardless of whether it is treated.
The regulations follow a 2005 state law that bans ships from dumping hazardous waste, sewage sludge and runoff from sinks and showers and required California to petition the EPA to ban sewage dumping along the entire shoreline.
"This is a great day for the California coast, which is far too precious a resource to be used as a dumping ground," said Democratic state Sen. Joe Simitian, who wrote the California law.
The U.S. Coast Guard will inspect vessels to make sure they follow the rule, which takes effect in March.
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