Draft report recommends air monitoring equipment, pollution prevention measures

Posted: Wednesday, May 10, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- A draft report on cruise ship emissions recommends air monitoring equipment in Juneau and random testing of the waste the big ships dump into Alaska waters.

The report compiles the work of government-industry committees established in the wake of high-profile pollution and dumping cases involving cruise ships.

''We expect to have a combination of changes in operations and monitoring this summer,'' said Michelle Brown, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation. ''The results of this season's monitoring will help us evaluate what steps are necessary for improving practices or changing state regulations or statutes.''

A public hearing on the report is scheduled for next Wednesday in Juneau.

In December, Brown called a meeting of state and federal regulators and the cruise industry in an attempt to improve industry practices voluntarily.

That summit led to working groups with representatives from the DEC, local governments in Southeast Alaska, the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Coast Guard, the cruise ship industry and citizen volunteers.

A steering committee overseeing those committees has already agreed on air monitoring in downtown Juneau during the 2000 cruise ship season. The smoke from that hovers above the capital city during the summer will be tested for sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and nitrous oxides.

Agreements on random third-party wastewater testing and a survey of waste stream discharges and solid waste handling practices are still being finalized, said Mary Siroky, a program manager for the Department of Environmental Conservation.

''We've got pretty firm agreements on the air quality issues,'' Siroky said. ''We are working to finalize the requirements on the wastewater discharges. I view those as fairly concrete commitments''

John Hansen, president of the North West CruiseShip Association, which represents the major lines operating in Alaska, was more cautious about the proposals.

''There's still some specifics to be worked out, but we're basically on the same wavelength with DEC,'' Hansen said. ''We think it's going to stimulate some good discussion and we'll get some good feedback on it, I hope.''

The steering committee, which includes Brown, Coast Guard Rear Admiral Thomas Barrett, Ron Kreizenbeck of EPA, Loren Gerhard of the Southeast Conference, a coalition of local governments, Dean Brown of North West CruiseShip Association, and Randy Ray of U.S. Cruise Lines will act on the draft report after the public comment period.

The draft report also calls for:

--Proposals and pilot projects from industry for new technologies including ultra-filtration of graywater, cleaner-burning fuels and engines, nontoxic dry-cleaning processes, and more effective oily-water separators.

--A cruise ship awareness day or days this summer designed to give the industry, regulatory agencies and citizens' groups an opportunity to speak to the public.

Cruise ships bring more than 500,000 passengers to Alaska each year and dump millions of gallons of wastewater -- known as graywater -- and treated sewage -- called black water -- into the Inside Passage. Public awareness of cruise ship waste increased drastically last year amid high-profile dumping cases.

In Alaska, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Ltd. and Holland America Line Westours Inc., were convicted of illegally polluting the Inside Passage. Royal Caribbean was fined $6.5 million. Holland America paid $1 million in fines and $1 million in restitution.

The cruise lines also faced allegations that they had legally dumped raw sewage and ground-up food waste in areas known as ''doughnut holes'' that are within the Inside Passage but more than 3 miles from shore.


On the Net:

The draft report is available at www.state.ak.us/dec/

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