ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Smoke spewing from the stacks of four cruise ships at the Juneau dock earlier this month appeared to be in violation of federal and state air pollution limits, a federal regulator who conducted the surprise inspections said Wednesday.
''Each ship was informed that their smoke was in excess of what is allowed by the state air quality (law) and the federal Clean Air Act,'' said John Pavitt, Alaska air quality coordinator for the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Results from June 10-12 inspections will be reviewed by the agency's Seattle regional office, which will determine whether air pollution violations occurred and whether to issue citations, Pavitt said.
The flourishing cruise ship industry, which the city estimates will bring 630,000 visitors to Juneau this summer, has come under stricter scrutiny after two companies were convicted last year of illegally polluting the Inside Passage.
Pavitt would not name the cruise ships, because the data is still being reviewed, but he did say that all four of the ships were owned by companies that were cited by the EPA last February for air quality violations during the summer of 1999.
Citations were issued for 13 ships owned by six companies: Holland America Line-Westours Inc., Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Lines and World Explorer.
Five of the six companies have challenged the EPA's findings, Pavitt said.
Only four companies had ships in port during the June 10-12 inspection period and were also cited in February: Carnival, Princess Cruises, Celebrity and Holland America.
''We're aware that they said one of our ships was in violation,'' said Denise Seomin, spokeswoman for Los Angeles-based Princess Cruises. Company officials who oversee environmental issues were out of town and unavailable for comment.
The other companies involved did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
John Hansen, president of the Vancouver-based North West CruiseShip Association, a trade organization representing the major lines, said it was unwise to comment on the inspection results until the EPA determines whether violations occurred.
''We do take air quality emissions very seriously,'' Hansen said in a telephone interview. All of the companies are taking steps to improve air quality performance, he added.
Pavitt, who conducted the inspections that led to the February citations, said the amount of smoke observed coming from the ships in the recent checks was ''very similar'' to the levels that were determined to be violations.
He is one of the agency's specially trained ''smoke readers,'' who are trained to judge the opacity of air pollution from the ships.
During the same three days of the June inspection, the EPA received complaints from the public saying the ships at the docks in Juneau were creating a lot of smoke, Pavitt said.
In recent months, cruise ship industry representatives have joined state and federal officials and the public to draft plans for monitoring water and air emissions from the fleet of foreign-flagged vessels.
Last month, the industry agreed to allow testing of wastewater and sewage produced by cruise ships in the Inside Passage. The results will remain confidential unless a violation of pollution laws occur.
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