Cruise ship shows off waste systems

Posted: Sunday, July 23, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- Cruise ships visiting the capital city this week opened their doors to anyone interested in learning more about how the giant vessels handle wastewater, garbage and smokestack exhaust.

''It's an open industry willing to share information,'' said Andrew Phillips, vice president of environmental and regulatory affairs for Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line.

But Robert Reges, an attorney with the citizen watchdog group Cruise Control, questioned that sincerity in the light of ongoing discussions between the industry, local residents, and state and federal regulators on ways to reduce and monitor remissions.

''We have worked for six, seven months, and there's not a written agreement, no unambiguous document, that lays out what we concluded'' the industry should do, Reges said Thursday. ''We can't spend every winter getting an unwritten agreement that they're going to do a fraction of what the loggers and miners and oil industry already have to do.''

Three days of tours and an evening of public discussions were aimed at allaying citizens' concerns about a growing industry that carries about 600,000 visitors to the region each year.

Concerns turned to anger last year when two cruise lines, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Holland America Line Westours Inc., were fined for illegally polluting the Inside Passage.

Then, in February, six cruise ship companies were cited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for violating federal and state air pollution limits in Alaska last summer. Four of those six are suspected of doing the same this year.

During one of Thursday's tours aboard Holland America's Statendam, officials led reporters and locals past a mermaid fountain and glass-encased artwork to the less glamorous waste-management center.

Fruit flies buzzed over a row of about 20 blue garbage bins, filled with shattered glass and aluminum cans mashed into bricks. Vast bundles of cardboard sat nearby. The containers, cardboard and white paper are taken off the ship for recycling.

Other trash, including food, is dried and burned. The ash, two tons each week, is released in the vessel's wake.

In the ship's engine control room, chief engineer Hans Dorr pointed out video screens and computer graphs that monitor the ship's emissions and sound alarms if they exceed standards.

Down in the engine room, Dorr explained the series of pipes and tanks that take wastewater and sewage through filters and treatment tanks before it is pumped over the side.

He also proudly showed off a work in progress: a complex filtration system designed to purify wastewater and sewage so it is theoretically clean enough to drink.

''I won't drink it,'' Dorr said smiling, adding he couldn't quite get past the knowledge of the source.



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