What lurks beneath: Bay Area’s battle with invasive species in ballast water

CROCKETT — Twenty feet below the water line, in the bilge of a cargo ship unloading raw sugar at the C&H factory, scientists are testing a high-tech weapon in the fight against invasive aquatic species.

A special ballast water treatment system is purifying the water that whooshes through a pump from the Carquinez Strait into the Moku Pahu, a double-hull bulk carrier that ferries raw sugar from Hawaii to California.

The ballast water balances the ship as the system removes organisms thinner than the width of a hair. If the treatment system performs as expected, it will join a handful of emerging technologies that represent the shipping industry’s best hope for meeting a state deadline to remove exotic species from ballast water discharge — or face stiff penalties.

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