JUNEAU (AP) -- Deep in the bowels of the Statendam -- many floors below the dining room and dance floor, the beauty salon and the spa -- wastewater from sinks, showers and toilets runs through a maze of pipes and treatment tanks.
It's an expensive maze.
The new treatment systems, which Holland America Line has installed on two of its six ships, cost $2.5 million a piece.
Holland America, like the eight other major cruise lines that ply Alaska's waters each summer, is preparing for new cruise ship pollution legislation, which is expected to pass in a special session Gov. Tony Knowles has called for Thursday.
The trend toward tougher environmental standards is occurring throughout the world, said Richard Softye, Holland America's vice president for compliance programs.
''We saw it coming down the line, and we anticipated that things were getting tighter and tighter,'' Softye said.
John Hansen, president of the North West CruiseShip Association, said the nine large companies that operate in Alaska support the bill, and their 22 ships will meet its requirements, although many will do so simply by discharging their waste the required distance offshore until new technology is installed.
Industry and legislative leaders expect the measure will pass, although not everyone is entirely happy with it.
Industry's biggest fear is that the $1 per passenger fee currently in the bill will rise to perhaps $50 or higher as the bill moves through the Senate.
Environmentalists say the bill doesn't go far enough in protecting Alaska's waters.
Senate Majority Leader Loren Leman, R-Anchorage, said the bill itself is fine. Although he doesn't think a special session was warranted to address it, he believes it will pass quickly.
House Bill 260 passed the House about a week before the regular session ended May 8, but stalled in the Senate Transportation Committee.
Committee Chairman John Cowdery said he had too many questions about the measure -- such as whether it would put small ships out of business and how much it would cost the state ferry system -- and not enough time to get answers.
Leman said he's been discussing amendments to address those concerns with Cowdery's staff and with the Department of Environmental Conservation, and he believes the issues will be resolved quickly once the session starts.
''We could be done in two days,'' Leman said.
A series of events led Knowles to demand the legislation.
In 1999 Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines was convicted of dumping oily bilge water and dry-cleaning and photo chemicals in Southeast waters. The past two summers, federal and state testing found some ships were putting out more smoke than allowed. And last year, in a voluntary testing program, almost none of the wastewater samples from the ships met federal standards for suspended solids and fecal coliform, a bacteria found in human feces.
House Bill 260 adds to a federal law passed late last year, which prohibits disposal of raw sewage anywhere in the Inside Passage.
Treated sewage and gray water -- the water from sinks and showers -- can be dumped in state waters only if a ship is a mile from shore and is traveling at least six knots, under the federal law.
Wastewater can be dumped in port only if it meets a much higher standard -- about 10 times more stringent than the one mile standard -- which so far only the Statendam has met, according to the Coast Guard.
House Bill 260 adds to that law in several ways that Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Michele Brown says are important.
The bill gives the state access to all the records collected for the Coast Guard.
It sets standards for fecal coliform and total suspended solids in graywater and gives the state power to limit other pollutants in graywater. There is no graywater standard in the federal law.
The bill gives the state authority to board ships and do its own testing, and would require ships to submit information on hazardous wastes, such as chemicals used in dry cleaning, they have on board and how they're being handled.
And the bill covers air emissions. The state already has authority to regulate air emissions, but putting that in House Bill 260 allows the testing to be paid for by industry fees.
Brown said that's critical. Lack of funding has kept the department from doing air testing in the past.
Sue Schrader, a lobbyist for Alaska Conservation Voters, said the bill is a big step forward, but still has holes. She and other environmentalists want the state to monitor all possible discharges, including ballast water and bilge water, not just sewage and graywater.
Brown said the bill doesn't address those discharges because they are not unique to the cruise industry, and if the state started regulating them, it would need to do so for all vessels. The Coast Guard does a good job regulating ballast and bilge water, she added.
Brown said the state can inspect plumbing to make sure toxic chemicals aren't being routed into those disposal pipes.
Schrader also wants the bill to require the ships' wastewater to meet state water quality standards, rather than letting DEC negotiate that with the industry.
Brown said industries' discharge standards are rarely the same as the state water standards because mixing zones are allowed in which the wastewater can exceed the standard until it become diluted.
The environmental group also wants the ships to apply for formal permits for wastewater dumping as other industries do.
That provision was in a bill proposed by the governor, but the industry resisted it. The Knowles administration agreed to require the ships to simply register, and in doing so, agree to comply with the law.
While the industry has accepted the current version of House Bill 260, cruise officials worry a larger head tax will be added.
Some Senate leaders support a tax, although the House leadership opposes it.
Leman said he doesn't know whether tax supporters will try to add that to this bill and whether they will succeed. If the issue comes up, that could lengthen the session, although not necessarily derail the bill, Leman said.
''That probably remains the single largest issue of contention,'' Leman said.
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