Coast Guard plans sanctions against cruise line

Posted: Monday, August 26, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- The U.S. Coast Guard said it plans to take some kind of enforcement action against a cruise line whose ship discharged partially treated sewage into Juneau's harbor.

Holland America also is investigating why partially treated sewage spilled out of a tank vent on the cruise ship Ryndam Aug. 17. Company officials estimate the spill at 250 gallons, although an eyewitness disputes that amount.

The Coast Guard and state Department of Environmental Conservation continue to investigate reports that the Ryndam discharged a brown substance near the cruise ship terminal in Juneau.

Cmdr. Steve Ohnstad, captain of the port for Southeast Alaska, said the Coast Guard needs to finish its investigation before deciding ''what type of tool to use.''

Holland America has brought experts familiar with its sewage and piping systems on board the ship to figure out exactly what happened, Ohnstad said.

Holland America officials said they believe the mishap was caused by human error.

Richard Softye, the cruise line's vice president of compliance programs, said the Ryndam has an advanced wastewater treatment system. What is typically discharged is ''as pure, if not purer, than drinking water,'' he said.

Juneau resident Greg Fisk was walking downtown when he first noticed the brown substance bubbling up from the ship and called authorities. It took the ship and the Coast Guard more than an hour to respond, he said. He estimates about 10,000 gallons of material spilled.

''It's certainly a lot more than has been reported by the Coast Guard or the ship. I think it's disturbing how long it took everyone to respond,'' he told the Juneau Empire.

Ohnstad said the Coast Guard is sticking by its earlier estimate that less than 1,000 gallons of the material spilled, although officials should know more once they look at the ship's system.

''We do respond promptly,'' he said. ''Generally right around Juneau we have people on call 24 hours. Generally, we make a very quick response.''

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