Ocean Dumping Ban Act of 1988 Law and Legal Definition

The Ocean Dumping Ban Act of 1988 (“Act”) is a U.S. federal law that marked an end to almost a century of sewage sludge and industrial waste dumping into the ocean. This Act was signed into law by the U.S. President on November 18, 1988. The Act prohibits sewage sludge and industrial wastes from being dumped at sea after December 31, 1991. However, minor exceptions were created for certain Army Corps of Engineers dredge materials that are occasionally deposited offshore.

The law was enacted in the middle of the negative publicity about beach closures from high levels of pathogens and floatable debris washing up along New York and New Jersey beaches and strong public sentiment that ending ocean dumping may improve coastal water quality.

The Ocean Dumping Ban Act of 1988 amended portion of the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act, which regulates the dumping of wastes into ocean waters. The Ban Act:

a. Makes it unlawful to dump, or transport for the purpose of dumping, sewage sludge or industrial waste into ocean waters after December 31, 1991.

b. Prohibits, after the 270th day after enactment, any person from dumping, or transporting for the purpose of dumping, sewage sludge or industrial waste into ocean waters unless the person: (1) enters into a compliance or enforcement agreement (which includes a plan negotiated by the dumper, the State, and EPA for terminating dumping as well as a schedule which EPA believes will result in the termination of the dumping), and (2) obtains a permit issued by EPA under authority of sec. 102 of the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA).

c. Provides for the payment of special fees for dumping and any penalties incurred by a dumper to be deposited into certain funds for use in finding alternatives to ocean dumping.